A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Talking about Philip Marlowe

Monday, August 24th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Marlowe_MitchumLovely2EDITED

“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)

I got in a bit of a Philip Marlowe mood when I wrote that A (Black) Gat in the Hand post on Powers Boothe’s excellent HBO series a few months ago. Now, I normally did pretty deep when I pick a subject for a Black Gate post. Which is why more than one never actually gets written. Yet, anyways. I’m going to try a different tack and write less in-depth on several different Marlowe projects. We’ll see how that goes.

Robert Mitchum’s Farewell My Lovely.

In 1975, two years after Eliot Gould’s The Long Goodbye (which I do NOT like), Mitchum was an older, world-weary Philip Marlowe. In 1978, he followed it up with The Big Sleep. It was a mess and his first movie as Marlowe is definitely the better of the two.

I’ve not been much of a fan of his Marlowe . It’s a combination of his age, and him seeming too stiff. Kinda like watching Charlton Heston play Sherlock Holmes in Crucifer of Blood (which isn’t actually too bad, overall). Re-watching Farewell My Lovely on WatchTCM, I did like him a bit better this time. I think his voice-over narration is the strength of his performance.

Charlotte Rampling is Velma/Mrs. Grayle. She played Irene Adler opposite Roger Moore in Sherlock Holmes in New York. And she was a regular for season two of Broadchurch a couple years ago. Velma’s inner nature really comes through in the showdown on the boat.

Jack O’Halloran plays Moose Malloy. Now, I have a hard time picturing anybody being Moose Malloy better than Mike Mazurki was in 1944’s Murder My Sweet. But O’Halloran is pretty darn good. He went on to be Emil Muzz, the goon in the Tom Hanks/Dan Akroyd Dragnet (which I love). He also played villain Non in Christopher Reeve’s first two Superman movies.

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Rogue Blades presents: In Defense of the Heroic

Friday, August 21st, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

henry david thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

This article originally appeared last year on the Rogue Blades Web site, but I thought readers of Black Gate would appreciate it.

“The heroic books, even if printed in the character of our mother tongue, will always be in a language dead to degenerate times…”

Henry David Thoreau wrote those words in the mid-19th Century for his distinguished book, Walden. They rang true then and they ring true today. Of course there will be those who say we do not live in degenerate times, that we live in the greatest of all ages, that our technological and social achievements are pressing us towards some utopia, but those who are true students of history and have open eyes might argue otherwise, or at least they might hold more than a little skepticism about the potential greatness of the immediate future.

Whether or not we live in a degenerate age, we are in need heroes more than ever. The Thoreau quote above concerns heroic books and not specifically heroic individuals, but I still believe it is appropriate to our current age.

But why do we need heroes? What do they bring to the table? After all, haven’t we shattered the myths of all our heroes from the past? Haven’t we discovered all the dirty little secrets about our real-world heroes? Haven’t we become so modern and avant-garde that the very idea of a fictional hero is quaint? Was not Tina Turner correct in her 1985 hit song, “We Don’t Need Another Hero?”

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Fantasia 2020, Part I: Introduction and Preview

Thursday, August 20th, 2020 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Fantasia 2020Usually by this point in the year I’ve begun posting reviews of films I saw earlier in the summer at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival. Here as elsewhere, things are different in 2020. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Fantasia was postponed to the end of August. It looked like this year’s Festival was in danger of not happening at all. But the wonderful and dedicated people behind Fantasia have made it work; the 24th edition of Fantasia begins today and runs through September 2, with no theatrical showings but over 100 feature films streamed online.

That’s a lot of movies, a bit less than the 130 or so features Fantasia usually hosts, but a lot more than you might expect under the circumstances. Last year’s Toronto International Film Festival had 245 feature-length films; this year’s will have 50. So the amount of movies at Fantasia suggests a lot of work by the organisers, as well as a healthy level of activity in genre film production worldwide.

Some of the movies at Fantasia are scheduled to play at specific times, while a number of others are available on demand at any point during the festival. Anyone in Canada can buy a ticket to a movie at this year’s Fantasia for CAN$8. Rights issues mean the films have to be geolocked to Canada — but the festival’s also hosting special events available free worldwide to anyone who wants to watch them, including a masterclass with John Carpenter, a presentation on Afrofuturism, and a panel in resistance in folk horror.

Usually when I write about Fantasia I try to get across the experience of being at a film festival. There’ll be less of that in 2020, though I do want to reflect on how different I find the feel of this year. (Will horror films be less overwhelming on the small screen, or more threatening because they’ve invaded my home?) I don’t really know what it’ll be like. But I’m eager to find out.

Find the rest of my Fantasia coverage from this and previous years here!


Matthew David Surridge is the author of “The Word of Azrael,” from Black Gate 14. You can buy collections of his essays on fantasy novels here and here. His Patreon, hosting a short fiction project based around the lore within a Victorian Book of Days, is here. You can find him on Facebook, or follow his Twitter account, Fell_Gard.


A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Norbert Davis’ ‘Have One on the House’

Monday, August 17th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

DimeDetective_March1942EDITED“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)

I’ve said many times that Norbert Davis is on my Hardboiled Mt. Rushmore. He’s not the first face carved in hardboiled stone, but he’s one of only four that are. Max Latin is my favorite Davis character, and he appeared in five issues of Dime Detective. There were five Benjamin Martin stories – all in Detective Tales. It was William (Bail Bond) Dodd that was Davis’ frequently recurring character. There were eight stories in Dime Detective between February, 1940 through December, 1943.

Dodd is a physically unprepossessing bail bondsman. He doesn’t actively seek out trouble. You can’t even call his adventures cases. “Have one on the House” was in the March, 1942 issue of Dime Detective. That issue also included a Steve Midnight story from John K. Butler. Midnight was a broke former playboy who found adventures as a night shift cabbie. There was also a Bookie Barnes story from Robert Reeves. Reeves broke into Black Mask in 1940 at the age of 28. He was serving with a bomber unit in the Philippines when he died in 1945, only one month before the war ended. He had continued to write while in the service. His budding career was cut tragically short.

Back to Dodd! Norbert Davis is remembered as perhaps the best at screwball hardboiled. However, then and now, that carries a stigma and he is generally dismissed because of it. And it’s both inaccurate and unfair. He could write straight hardboiled, like “The Red Goose,” which Raymond Chandler praised as influencing him when he decided to become a writer. But what Davis did so well was inject humor into his hardboiled stories, without overwhelming them with it. That’s the case with the Bail-Bond Dodd stories. It’s not that the characters are funny – it’s the situations that Dodd (and his assistant, Meekins) find themselves in.

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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 drawn 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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