A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Norbert Davis’ Don’t You Cry for Me’

Monday, August 3rd, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Davis_Don'tCry“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)

On my Hardboiled Mount Rushmore, it’s Dashiell Hammett, Frederick Nebel, and then Norbert Davis. The fourth spot is a bit fluid, though the Jo Gar series often has Raoul Whitfield in that fourth spot. But today, we’re going to look at a Davis short story.

Davis was in law school at Stanford when he wrote his first story and sent it to Joe ‘Cap’ Shaw, the legendary editor of Black Mask. It was accepted, and by the time he graduated law school, he was successfully writing for the pulps. In fact, he was doing so well, he never sat for the bar, and spent the rest of his life as a writer, moving from the pulps to the higher-paying slicks. Sadly, took his own life at only the age of 40.

I’ve already written an essay on his Ben Shaley stories, which constituted two of the five Davis tales Shaw printed in Black Mask under his watch. After Shaw left, Davis appeared in Black Mask eight more times. I’m working on what I hope will be THE definitive essay on his Max Latin stories. I absolutely love that five-story series. They’re fantastic.

Between May 1942 and May 1943, Black Mask ran three stories featuring John Collins. Collins was a piano player who had done some investigation work on the side in Europe before World War II. “Don’t You Cry for Me” was the first of the three stories.
Picking Iron (trivia) – In May, 1942, Give the Devil His Due” ran in Dime Detective.

Of course, America was draw into World War II on December 7, 1941.The story blurb for this one reads, “The brawny piano-player had had his run-ins with the ghoulish Gestapo in the beer halls of Europe, but when he promised Myra Martin’s mother to find the girl in the Mecca of the movie-struck, he ran foul of a plot as fantastic as any Hitler pipe-dream.” Pulp magazines used bombast long before Donald Trump did.

“John Collins was playing the Beale Street Blues and playing it soft and sad because that was the way he felt. The notes dripped through the dimness of the room like molasses and provided an appropriate accompaniment to his thoughts. He had a hangover.”

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Horrific Fright and Traumatic Scenes: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Saturday, August 1st, 2020 | Posted by James McGlothlin

The Only Good Indians-small The Only Good Indians-back-small

Cover designed by Ella Laytham

The Only Good Indians
Stephen Graham Jones
Saga Press (310 pages, $26.99 hardcover/$7.99 ebook, July 14, 2020)

Stephen Graham Jones has been a force on the horror scene for well over a decade now. His first major book Demon Theory came out back in 2007. But he quickly became a regular in many horror anthologies and magazines in the ensuing years and he has over two dozen books to his name including the amazing collection When the People Lights Go Out (2014) and his werewolf novel Mongrels (2016).

I first came across Stephen Graham Jones around 2013 in an anthology that included his gut-wrenching short-story “Father, Son, Holy Rabbit.” That story is still one of the most heartbreaking “horror” stories I’ve ever read. Another story of his that really sticks out to me is his “The Darkest Part” in Ellen Datlow’s edited Nightmare Carnival 2014, which I raved about here on Black Gate a few years ago. Though I have not read all of Jones’ stories, I have found him to have a consistent ability to evoke a range of raw emotions, all within the satisfying milieu of the clearly recognizable genre of supernatural horror.

Jones’ latest novel is no exception. The Only Good Indians is packed with wallops of horrific fright as well as some very upsetting and traumatic scenes, emotionally and viscerally so. Jones is himself Native American and most of his stories that I have read have Native American main characters. Given the title of his new novel, it should be no surprise that the main characters here are Native American as well. But The Only Good Indians also takes place within contemporary Native American life, including reservation or “rez” life: its idiosyncrasies, its glories, and most fervently of all, its tragedies.

And, in my humble opinion this is what makes The Only Good Indians so uniquely good — and for me, very thought-provoking.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: A Hardboiled August on TCM

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Bogart_TwoCarrollsEDITEDHopefully you’re used to my monthly look at some hardboiled/noir coming up for the month over at TCM. August is a little different. There is no Star of the Month. Instead a different person is featured every night for a ‘Summer under the Stars.’ I’ll include the star of the day, as it’s almost a day-long tribute to that star. As usual, the month features some hardboiled and noir:

SATURDAY AUGUST 1 (Barbara Stanwyck)

4:00 PM – The Two Mrs. Carrolls
This is a creepy Humphrey Bogart movie, with Stanwyck as his second wife. It also features Alexis Smith, who had a key role in the underrated Conflict. Nigel Bruce, Basil Rathbone’s Dr. Watson, plays a bit of a doofus (that was a real stretch for him). I find all the scenes with Bogart’s daughter annoying. Worth seeing once, but not in my top half of Bogart flicks.

10:00 PM – Double Indemnity
This was just on back in June. One of the greatest noirs of them all, with Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson all terrific. Great movie. Great novel.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 2

6:00 AM – Winchester ‘73
Since I’m the one writing this post, I add in movies from other genres that I think are good to watch. This is a different kind of western from director Anthony Mann, starring James Stewart, Shelly Winters, and noir star Dan Duryea. I don’t list this in my Westerns Top 10, but it’s a good one in the field.

MONDAY, AUGUST 3 (Rita Hayworth)

8:00 PM – The Lady from Shanghai
Orson Welles directed, wrote the screenplay, and costarred in this Hayworth vehicle.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand – Bogart and Bacall’s ‘Bold Venture’

Monday, July 27th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Bogart_BoldVEntureAd“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 termsp for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

In 1951 and 1952, a radio series named Bold Venture was a syndicated radio show, under the aegis of Santana Productions. Santana, named after his boat, was Humphrey Bogart’s company, to create and produce projects he wanted to make; not beholden to a big studio like Warners. Bold Venture was notable because he and wife Lauren Bacall starred. You can listen to the whole thing here.

There is some confusion regarding some episode names, and the actual number of shows is uncertain. Their number seems to be between fifty-seven and seventy-eight, and it aired on between four and five hundred stations. There are fifty-seven existing episodes, of good recording quality. Frederic Ziv (see below) reported that all seventy-eight shows were made, per the contracts.

Bogie Bits – Santana produced seven films – six of them distributed by Columbia. Bogart starred in five, with In a Lonely Place the most successful, and critically acclaimed.

Bogart plays Slate Shannon, owner of a low-key hotel in pre-Revolution Havana. He also has a boat, the Bold Venture. Bacall is Sailor Duval, the Vassar-educated daughter of a good friend of Shannon’s. When her father had died, Shannon agreed to take her on as his ward. A romance develops between the two over the course of the series. They have adventures on land and on sea, inevitably crossing paths with criminals each week.

Bogart didn’t like doing network radio. He felt it was too much work for too little money. He enjoyed sailing, and his home life with Bacall. Frederic Ziv had achieved great success in putting together syndicated radio shows, competing with the networks’ offerings. Ziv had some scripts prepared and met with the Bogarts, who liked the idea, but they asked to record two shows, to see how it sounded. So, in stead of an actor auditioning for a radio show, a radio show auditioned for two actors!

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Gen Con 2020 Online

Saturday, July 25th, 2020 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

GenCon2020I have been attending Gen Con regularly since 2009, and reporting on the events and new games here on Black Gate. It’s one of the highlights of my year, honestly. But this year, of course, Gen Con has suffered the same fate as so many other major in-person events … a shift to online participation. Gen Con Online will run from Thursday, July 30, through Sunday, August 2, 2020.

Registration for Gen Con Online is free for attendees. There will also be three different Twitch channels that are livestreaming demos, live games, and other broadcasts related to Gen Con, with links available here. There is also supposed to be a Discord server set up, though that is still coming. Not surprisingly, it looks like there will be ample abilities to purchase games through the Gen Con Game Store, and of course to purchase Gen Con merchandise. All of that goes live online when the convention begins on Thursday. Once you’ve signed up for your badge, you can register for individual events on the Event Page, though at this point many of the most popular events are sold out. (It is still worth checking in, though, as some people might not show up for their registered events.)

Favorite annual major events from Gen Con are still taking place, though in modified forms. For example, the annual Costume Contest allowed entries throughout the first half of July. Finalist videos will be placed on the Online Costume Contest website on July 29, allowing for votes from fans (1 vote per person). It isn’t going to be quite the same as the Saturday parade of costumes through the convention center, to be sure, but I’m definitely glad that they’ve found a way for these impressive cosplayers to show their stuff and get recognized for it.

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Rogue Blades Presents: Who Was Your First Hero? Part 2

Friday, July 24th, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

Starlog coverA couple of months ago here at Black Gate, I wrote about my first heroes, mainly the fictional ones I recall from my boyhood in the 1970s. Spider-Man came to mind, as did Steve Austin and a few others. Then not so long ago, over at his Facebook page, author Nick Ozment asked something along the lines of, “What was the first movie you watched inside an actual theater?” That question got me thinking.

Before going further, though, I’d like to point out to the younger crowd reading this that Nick’s question might sound somewhat unusual, but it really isn’t. For many of us with gray hair, as kids we didn’t have streaming services or DVD players. Heck, before the mid-1980s or thereabouts, many of us didn’t have VCR players or even cable television. So, it might seem that our only option for watching movies was in a theater, but that was not the case. We might have only had three or four channels on our television, but there was always a movie of the week on Friday nights, usually a famous movie, even a blockbuster, but most times it had been edited for length and adult language. More importantly, we watched a lot of movies at the drive-in theaters. And I mean a lot of movies. If I had to hazard a guess, before 1980 I probably only ever saw a movie in an indoor theater maybe a half dozen times, but I had watched scores, maybe hundreds, of movies at drive-in theaters.

Okay, okay, back to Nick Ozment’s question. “What was the first movie you watched inside an actual theater?” When I thought about it, I couldn’t come up with a definitive answer. The best I could do was guess, and only two movies came to mind. One was Godzilla vs. Megalon, the other being The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Richard Diamond, Private Eye – The Betty Moran Case

Monday, July 20th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Diamond_PowellGregg“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 termsp for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

The Betty Moran Case (Click here to listen to it before reading the essay) aired on May 26, 1949. It was the fourth episode, and it opened up with the typical PI voice-over, in what is one big info dump. Richard Diamond is in his one-room office on Broadway, explaining that he does just enough work to pay the bills and take his (rich) girlfriend, Helen Asher, out once in awhile. Diamond, who was in the military, and was also a New York City cop, works hard for his clients, but doesn’t want to work too hard, or too often. Quite a few episodes begin with Powell in his office, bored, when a client comes in. Sometimes, it’s a thug with a warning.

In February of 1945, the film Murder My Sweet transformed song and dance man Dick Powell into a hardboiled tough guy. That summer, he starred as a radio detective in Rogue’s Gallery. He stayed in the part for two more runs, though 1946, then left the show, while hardboiled/noir films continued in 1947 and 1948. That second year, he also recorded an audition episode for a new radio series, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. It went on to a long run as a show about a free-lance insurance investigator. Bob Bailey became the most successful actor in the role, which Powell passed on. He had something else in mind.

April 24, 1949, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, aired over NBC radio. Powell largely recreated his Richard Rogue character, adding in a song every episode. But the new show dropped the part where he got knocked out and talked to his subconscious, helping solve the case. That (odd) bit was at the heart of Richard Rogue. Powell recorded somewhere around 150 shows as Richard Diamond, and it’s just about my favorite series. He later produced a television version, starring David Jansen. It was sorely lacking the humor of the radio show.

This episode opens with a woman being visited by the guy who is blackmailing her. She’s had enough, and fortified by liquor, blasts him with a gun. Then, she takes a drink, says “Here’s to nothing” and we hear another gunshot. Her name is Betty Moran, and she’s front page news. Literally, as a seedy-sounding character buys a paper on the street and, talking to himself (a lot of that in radio shows), says that her husband is ripe for more blackmailing.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: YTJD – The Emily Braddock Matter (John Lund)

Monday, July 13th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Dollar_Lund

“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)

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, was a very popular radio show that ran from 1949 – 1962. Dollar was a free-lance insurance investigator – maybe the best in the business — who traveled all over the United States and beyond, to help insurance companies stay on the right side of the financial ledger. He’s famous for fully expensing his trips: claiming ten cents for an aspirin for a job-induced headache is standard. Each episode opens with some company hiring him to look into a claim on their behalf. He usually has a quip early on (“Hi Johnny, are you free?” “Available, yes. Free, no.”), and then travels to the scene of the affair.

Dick Powell recorded the first audition for the part, but passed on the show to make Richard Diamond, Private Eye (a show I thoroughly enjoy). Charles Russell (Inner Sanctum) became the first Dollar, succeed not long after by Edmond O’Brien (White HeatThe Wild Bunch, and then John Lund (Foreign Affair, High Society). Bob Bailey had the longest, and most successful, run. When the show moved from Hollywood to New York, he quit to remain on the west coast. Robert Readick (his career spanned over five decades in radio) took over in New York, and finally, it was Mandel Kramer (The Edge of Night). Today, we’ll look at a John Lund episode.

One of the Lund episodes which I really like, because it has a Raymond Chandler feel to it, is The Emily Braddock Matter, which aired on May 19, 1953. You can listen to the episode here: scroll down to number 24.

A woman is passing bad checks out on the west coast, and the Baltimore Liability insurance company calls Dollar to fly out to California to stop her. She’s hit three of their covered hotels. Of course, Philip Marlowe – and his prototypes, such as Johnny Dalmas – operated out of southern California, with the fictional Bay City being Santa Barbara. But Dollar has cases all over the world, so that wasn’t really a Chandler trigger.

“Expense account item one, $158.16; Plane fare and incidentals, Hartford to Santa Barbara.” And off we go!

His local police contact is out, so Dollar heads to the Harbor Inn, where Glenn Sheridan is the hotel operator who had been taken in by the crook. He has twenty years experience in the business, but said she was the best he’s seen. She bluffed her way through a four-day stay, giving Sheridan a forged check for $813 when she left. She had been well dressed, with fancy luggage (which she probably bought with a forged check), spending big money in the dining room every evening. She totally fooled him.

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The Dark Corners of Cyberpunk 2020‘s Night City

Monday, July 6th, 2020 | Posted by Patrick Kanouse

bladerunner

Cyberpunk as a term covers a broad vision, from Philip K. Dick, to Blade Runner, to The Matrix, to Snow Crash, to Transmetropolitan and many beyond. Cyberpunk is recognizable while being open to many artistic points of view. The audience’s understanding and vision of cyberpunk is also theirs. Thats part of what keeps cyberpunk alive, this ability to share some basic concepts but in many guises.

Like much else with genres, each person has touchstones of their encounters with the genre that defines what that genre is to him or her. Unlike settings such as Star Wars and Star Trek, whose basic themes and style were laid out by their creators — George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry, respectively — and which thrive on exploring those universes, your feelings on what cyberpunk is are probably largely driven by your first interactions and that creator’s particular view on cyberpunk. Rather than the singular artist who created Star Wars and Star Trek (at least initially), cyberpunk was created by multiple artists, even if it had leading lights. Also, this is not to say we are not open to expanding and incorporating additional inputs, only that what we may typically think of a cyberpunk is rooted in our first interactions with the genre.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Dick Powell as ‘Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar’

Monday, July 6th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Dollar_Powell

Powell as Phlip Marlowe

“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)

Dick Powell was Johnny Dollar? Well, no, not exactly. Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, was a very successful radio show, which ran for over 800 episodes, covering thirteen years. It easily outlasted many competing programs, such as The Adventures of Sam Spade, and The (New) Adventures of Philip Marlowe. Dollar was “the insurance investigator with the action-packed expense account,” though he started out as more of a typical private eye. Which can also be said of Erle Stanley Gardner’s lawyer, Perry Mason.

In December of 1948, Dick Powell auditioned for the new show, recording the episode Milford Brooks III. With movies such as 1944’s Murder My Sweet, and 1947’s Johnny O’Clock, the popular song-and-dance man had carved out a niche as an unlikely hardboiled star. He’s actually my favorite movie Marlowe, and I wrote about Johnny O’Clock here at Black Gate. Here’s the episode, for your listening pleasure.

He had also spent the previous two years as Richard Rogue in the rather unusual PI radio show, Rogue’s Gallery. Like many shows of the time, Rogue’s Gallery had a lack of stability in network, time slot and even renewal, and Powell left after 1947, replaced by Barry Sullivan. This left him available to try out for Johnny Dollar. The original title was Yours Truly, Lloyd London, but was presumably changed to avoid trouble with the well-known insurance company.

However, it appears that Powell decided to pass on the part to pursue a different radio opportunity; Richard Diamond, Private Eye (another of my favorites). So, actor Charles Russell was given the part. This essay is going to talk mostly about Powell’s audition, but will go beyond that focus.

In this earliest incarnation, Powell plays a somewhat light-hearted version of Dollar, though he’s still more of a typical private eye than a distinctive insurance investigator. His witty patter is consistent throughout, and he even hums ‘Slow Boat to China;’ a tip of the fedora to his Hollywood musical background. In fact, Powell comes across as pretty similar to his next part, Richard Diamond.

Early on, a young man he’s dealing with bites him, which later lets Dollar make a cryptic comment that “Let’s just say, he put the bite on me.” That comes just after saying, “That kid’s liquor sure can hold him.” Very much like Diamond, Powell’s Dollar is quick with a quip. Which is fine. But it’s more prevalent here than it would be with other actors in the role.

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