Monday, December 31, 2007

The Obligatory Year-End Self-Reflection Post

It's been quite a year at GishclerCorp.

I've published some well-received short stories, and I completed the writing of a short crime novel over the summer. Shotgun Opera was nominated for an Anthony Award. I learned how to cook PERFECT ribs on my awesome charcoal grill. Many, many important accomplishments.

Emerson LaSalle passed away. The full ramifications of this remain to be seen.

The most important thing to happen (career-wise) was that I signed a two-book contract with the Touchstone imprint of Simon & Schuster. The first book Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse has already garnered great blurbs from authors I respect like Joe Lansdale, Ken Bruen, Mike Resnick, Sean Doolittle and James Rollins. I'm hard at work on the second book in the contract, Bad Alchemy. So I go into 2008 with a lot of high-octane optimism. I have some good promotional ideas for Go-Go and I'm eager to work on other projects.

Still ... I feel I could have done more. At the moment, I need to keep my fat yap shut, but I have a number of things on the very edge of falling into place ... all the result of a combination of hard work, luck and the machinations of Team Gischler. More as doings develop.

What about you folks? What were the hi-lites of 2007?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Pop Culture Anthropology ... Assignment #2

While watching a children's cartoon (something with bunnies for the under 9 crowd) I noticed that the show used the Bionic Man sound effect when one of the bunnies attempted some sort of giant leap. It occurred to me that the vast majority of children would not get this reference. My sister-in-law's husband and I concluded that these references were inserted to amuse long-suffering parental units.

But the incident got me to a-wondering.

How are pop culture references passed along?

Example: There are two obvious groups watching the bunny cartoon. 1. Older folks who have seen The Six-Million Dollar Man and understand the reference, and 2. Younger kiddies who haven't and don't. But I postulate a 3rd group. A middle group who haven't seen (and don't particularly want to see the show) the show but understand the reference nevertheless. I think many of these references have become part of a common mythos and live on independently of their source material.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pop Culture Anthropology ... Assignment #1

Instead of looking at dusty pottery shards, our artifacts are various bits of pop culture crap.

Why did the Scooby Doo cartoon abandon its popular original format in favor of guest stars like Sonny and Cher and the Harlem Globe Trotters?


Friday, December 7, 2007

I like this mini-keg better ....

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm and also Ahhhhhhhhh.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How to make your own private pub in your kitchen

First, get yourself one of these little kegs.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Research for BAD ALCHEMY

Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse hasn't even come out yet, but I'm already deep into writing Bad Alchemy, and I must admit that the research I've been doing the last few days has my longing to get on a jet and head across the Atlantic again. Most of the novel take place in Prague. Wish I could get back there, and I probably will, but who knows when.

Anyway, the photos give you an idea of what the place looks like. At least the places most tourists see -- which is not to imply they're bad places. Prague Castle is pretty effing cool.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Currently working on the next novel for Touchstone and it's coming along quite well. I'm not usually prone to progress reports, but I'm feeling relieved that it's coming together, so I thought I'd share.

Say, anyone out there up on their Hebrew mythology? Is there a term for a Jewish wizard or man of magic or something like that? Yes, I know I should do my own research (and I will) but I thought if anyone wanted to point me in the right direction it would be neato-keen for me.

Anyway, I want to try to finsih a chapter before the Florida vs. Florida State game comes on TV.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Emerson LaSalle Scholarship

From Professor Fury. Check it out HERE.

Good stuff.

Monday, November 19, 2007

LaSalle = Genius

I'm two-thirds of the way through Emerson LaSalle's final novel. It's a crime novel and it perfectly captures the pulp feel of the 40's and 50's while still staying contemporary and relevant. A masterpiece of lowbrow pulp. Amazing. More when I'm finished.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

PLOTS WITH GUNS ... Back in Action


If you think you have fiction, artwork or photography that might be badass enough, go check out Anthony Neil Smith's blog.


The FedEx package had been accidentally sent Belgium. But it's here now. The FedEx people were very embarrassed and put a special rush job on it. (I thought they were ALL supposed to be rush jobs.)

Anyway ...

I opened the package with shaking hands, breathlessly eager to see the title of the FINAL LaSalle manuscript. I got a little surprise. In addition to the final manuscript, there was also a copy of LaSalle's one and only attempt at a "literary" novel, his 1951 effort The Reluctant Enthusiast.

I'd heard of this novel, but never thought I'd be holding a first edition in my hands. It was probably the only thing that could have distracted me from the new manuscript, and I must admit that I began reading it that very minute, sitting in my easy chair with the shreds of the FedEx package still in my lap.

It's a love-triangle story, something about a piano and a tree surgeon and a teenage girl keeping some sort of long-winded diary. At times, LaSalle's efforts almost seem like a parody of a literary novel, but his raw earnestness is clear and I'm almost glad my friend is not alive to ask my opinion of his attempt at literature.

It's sad really because the rich themes in almost any of his pulp novels make better literature than his one conscious attempt to accomplish the same thing. His 1960 novel I Was a Teenage Android offers one of the most stunning comments on human nature and free will ever written in English.

LaSalle often made fun of my academic background, but I think secretly he wanted to win my respect which might be why he willed The Reluctant Enthusiast to me in addition to his final manuscript. How I wished I'd let him know. You always had my respect, Mr. LaSalle. Always.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


The manuscript of Emerson LaSalle's final novel DID NOT ARRIVE by FedEx as expected. I am in a sweaty panic. The books was typed on an old Smith Corona and there is NO COPY!!! We've tracked the package as far as New Orleans. I'm thinking of driving down there with a revolver and making it clear that I fully intend to have that manuscript.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Emerson LaSalle R.I.P. (1899-2007)

Many of you have probably already heard, but one of my all-time pulp heroes author Emerson LaSalle was killed yesterday in the woods near his home in Calamity, Idaho where he was mauled by a large black bear. I was shocked and stunned to hear it and saddened as well since I'd only a few months ago made good friends with the author.
Mr. LaSalle did not care for me at first and that's putting it mildly. I wrote him an e-mail some time ago professing my admiration for him and telling him how much his work had been an influence on my own. Here is part of his reply:

Yes, I am aware of your little novels. It seems you have taken the liberty of stealing my best stuff, watering it down, and passing it off as your own. How clever of you. Did they teach you that in MFA school, you little tit?

As you can imagine I was stunned by this reply. At first I thought it best to slink away and leave this bitter old man to his own devices. Instead, I doggedly continued to e-mail him. I'm glad of my decision, for I eventually won him over, and in his last months he even became something of a mentor.

Anthony Neil Smith and I were lucky enough to get Mr. LaSalle to let us write a screenplay based on his memoir. The screenplay is called Pulp Boy and it's an amalgam of events found in his unpublished memoir set in the present day. Neil and I are very eager to find interested producers. I'd love for the film to be made since a talent like Mr. LaSalle's deserves such a fitting tribute.
LaSalle wrote over 400 pulp novels in his lifetime -- mostly science fiction and horror but a good mix of crime and a few westerns too. Some of his standout titles were Vixen Shamus, Guns of Old Mars, Sheriff Dracula and Whorebots of Planet Vegas.

I was stunned when the executor of LaSalle's estate called me last night to inform me that LaSalle had left me the manuscript of his final novel. It's being sent to me by FedEx along with all the rights and I've been on pins and needles waiting to get it and read it. The final LaSalle novel! What's the title? What's the plot? Who are the characters?

I will miss my new friend. Our aquaintance was far too short. But I salivate at the thought of the new manuscript.
More news later.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


As regular readers of Blogpocalypse might remember, I told everyone some time ago about how I'd pulled eleven dirty coffee mugs out of my car. I was quite impressed with myself. Well, I'm proud to report that today I removed an astonishing (my wife would say "appalling") thirteen coffee mugs from my vehicle. (And also a thermos.) I'd like to thanks the fine folks at Community Coffee for helping to make this possible.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


As many of you might already know, I'm good friends with this Anthony Neil Smith guy. Smith brought you Plots With Guns and also the gritty crime novels Psychosomatic and The Drummer. So it's with great pleasure that I command you to pay attention to THIS.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Louisiana Book Festival ... NOIR ... again

Later today I will be on a discussion panel at The Louisiana Book Festival. The panel is called Two Guys Noir. Many of you who know me well will fully understand how eager I am to discuss "noir" for perhaps the 750th time. I do so relish the discussion. I am chomping at the bit to define exactly what noir is and which authors are legit noir while others are damn imposters.

Perhaps I'll get to use a bunch of fancy words I learned in grad school.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Rumpole of the Bailey

About three years ago, my parents gave my wife and me the complete set of the Thames Televison series Rumpole of the Bailey. We immeditely watched all the episodes and enjoyed them very much. Now, just enough time has passed for us to have forgotten many of the details of each episode, and we're enjoying watching them all over again.
What I enjoy about the show is Rumpole himself, a larger than life character who made the phrase "She who must be obeyed" famous in reference to his wife. Rumpole quotes poetry, and has a dramatic, theatrical nature.
What I like best about Rumpole is that he's great at what he does but is constantly the odd man out, the black sheep of the chambers where he works with his fellow lawyers ... or "learned friends." His peers look down on him for wallowing in crime, often taking on forgers, murderers and petty villains as clients -- the sort of people Rumpole's colleagues feel "bring down the tone of chambers." Instead of applauding Rumpole for his outstanding cross-examinations, they make fun of him for his shabby hat.
We've probably all felt like Horace Rumpole at one time or another, eh? Like we're doing something praiseworthy or ambitions, but all our detractors can do is make fun of our shabby hats. What I like best of all about Rumpole is that he does not do what he does to impress anyone. He does it because he's good at it and enjoys it. Criminal law is in his blood and lights a fire in his belly. And that's the great lesson of the show, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Thursday, October 4, 2007

On THE FAST TRACK ... with Lee Goldberg

I've always been fascinated as hell with how movies and television shows are made. Check out Lee Goldberg's blog. He's linked to a trio of videos -- The Making of FAST TRACK the movie he's just finished shooting in Germany. It's clear from the interviews that these guys are really professionals, have a clear idea of the type of movie they want to make and how to go about it. Interesting stuff.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Shotgun Opera the movie?

Well, no. Not quite yet. But Marshal Zeringue gave me the chance to sound off about what such a film might be like.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Back from Bouchercon

Well ... I lost the Anthony Award.

On the other hand, I did ride a horse straight up a mountain.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So ... What micro-brews should I try in Anchorage?

I want to join in on the fun of "I'm off to Bouchercon" blogging. Yes, I too will board a jet for the great north. My flight will last ... oh ... roughly 75 hours, so I'll be ready for a drink when I hit the ground. A big one.

I'd like to encourage folks to come see me on my panel and/or at my solo author session. Come say hi. Ask questions. Do Bouchercon things. Again, I will be giving away a limited number of my books at my solo author session. (limited number = more than one, but less that seven.)

In case I haven't mentioned it lately, I'm up for an Anthony Award -- my novel Shotgun Opera in the category of Best Paperback Original. Considering the worthy competition I can't really think I'm going to win, but it'll be cool to walk around for a day or two as a nominee.
See you there.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stretching my storytelling abilities

I have a 4 year old son. His name is Emery. We went to the doctor a few days ago, and we waited in the waiting room. A long time. About 200 hours. As you can imagine a 4 year old can get a bit restless. I told him a story.

The story was about a kingdom of purple bunnies who foil a three-headed dragon.

Emery has now insisted I continue the adventures of the purple bunnies. Daily. Recently the purple bunnies have helped a giant eagle retrieve her eggs from a hungry polar bear with a slight bit of help from Santa Claus. The Purple bunnies have been to outer space and back. The purple bunnies generally celebrate a good adventure by going to Pizza Hut.

It has been difficult to restrain myself. Often, I feel the purple bunnies could resolve certain problems with a machine gun or laser death ray. I feel this might not be appropriate.

I have thus far behaved myself.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Getting my Geek on

I'd like to apologize to my wife Jackie for getting her into this. She used to be normal. Now I've got her hooked on Red Dwarf ... a funny-ish sci-fi show from the UK. We recently purchased the entire eight seasons on DVD.

I say "funny-ish" because the show isn't necessarily the funniest comedy to ever hit television. I think of the show as more amusing than flat out hilarious, but the fact is I genuinely like the characters and enjoy spending time with them.

Now if I can just get Jackie to start watching Venture Brothers ...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Out of the Gutter 3 ... it pays to advertise

These guys seem pretty serious about getting the word out they have a new issue coming in November.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

This one goes to eleven

So my wife noticed how hard it was to get a cup of coffee in the morning. A recent development. Why? Because there never seemed to be any clean coffee mugs ... or ... to be frank ... any coffee mugs at all. Where the hell did they all go?

In my truck. Mugs go in but they don't come out. So I made a point to clean them out of there today.

Eleven. Eleven coffee mugs in my truck. That's a new personal best.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Now I finally understand this novel writing thing

To think you might have wasted years on an MFA when you can just watch a six minute video.

Monday, September 3, 2007

On jumping genres and what that may (or may not) mean to the Gischler

If you know me and my work or have been a regular reader of this blog then you know I've written four hardboiled crime novels for Bantam Dell. And you also probably know I've recently switched gears a bit, signing on with Simon & Schuster for a couple of novels that are a bit ... different.

I was contacted by the good folks at Touchstone (the S&S imprint publishing my stuff) who said they were starting to talk about GO-GO GIRLS OF THE APOCALYPSE in-house and getting excited about various ideas to market the book. (I even contributed a good idea myself which was fairly well-received. Stay tuned.) It was the sort of phone call an author wants to get from his/her publisher. Lots of positive enthusiasm about my work and how the team was going to spread my name hither and yon among readers of the world.

One little surprise during the conversation: Touchstone plans to market the book as Science Fiction.

Cool. I am a huge science fiction/Fantasy fan, loving such authors as Nancy Kress, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Mike Resnick, Dave Duncan, Richard K. Morgan, John Scalzi, Lawrence Watt-Evans ... the list goes on. And a story set in a post-apocalyptic America? Sure. That's a no-brainer. Why wouldn't it go on the Science Fiction shelf of Borders and B&N? In a way, it feels cool to come full circle. I started off writing science fiction/fantasy/horror short stories, and, although I published a few things, I was really getting nowhere fast, not really hitting my stride until I penned a few things in the crime genre. So it's cool. I'm finally starting the science fiction career I always wanted, and I'm stoked about it.

And yet ...

Expectations are everything, aren't they? And I'd developed some different expectations. When we all first started talking about GO-GO, the name Christopher Moore came up a lot (I highly suggest everyone get a copy of Lamb.). I'm a huge fan of Moore's work, and while he uses a number of fantastical/supernatural elements in his work, the books are sold as mainstream. This was sort of how we were going to approach selling GO-GO. The science fiction elements in the book are strong, but I think the satirical elements are dominant. But Touchstone saw opportunities to reach a science fiction audience, and I very much support any campaign that gets my work to the readers who will appreciate it the most.

Kurt Vonnegut (another book-writing hero of mine) said he wanted to stay out of the science fiction file drawer because critics too often mistook this drawer for a urinal. I'm not inviting the tired lit-snob vs. genre debate. I don't have the energy for it. All I'm saying is that I'm wondering. Wondering what's going to happen as I tackle a brave new genre. Will my crime readers follow me to new places? Will the science fiction community welcome me? I sort of feel like a rookie all over again.

I'm eager. I look forward to meeting different folks at science-fiction conventions, new authors. It's all out there waiting, and I plan to jump in with both feet.

Here's what's not different: What I write and the way I write it. When I wrote crime novels, I never sat down and said to myself "Crime novels are supposed to look like this." No. I wrote the story I wanted to write regardless of genre conventions or formulas. Same goes for science fiction or any other genre. I'm going to write the sort if thing I'd want to read. I'm going to hope others like it. We'll see what happens.

I hope I can get you guys to come along for the ride.

(p.s. This doesn't mean the crime genre is over for me. I always have a little something brewing there too.)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Buffy the Vampire Slayer ... please send a psychiatrist

Earlier in August I blogged that I would be watching every episode of every season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer all in a row. This was part of the moral support I was offering my wife Jackie who is watching all the episodes as part of an effort to write a smartish academic type paper about the show.

So my TV watching the last 2 weeks has consisted almost exclusively of Buffy, pausing only now and then to catch some news or a bit of football. (Go Gators!)

And I think I'm going a bit crazy. I'm starting to think of the characters as people I know. My dreams are lousy with Buffy, Spike, Xander and Willow.

Today I'm going to watch some golf on TV which I hope will act as mental sorbet.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's Time this Blog settled on a Theme Song

Thanks to a recent post at First Offenders, I decided it was time to nominate possible theme songs for Blogpocalypse.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another Beer Post

Now I'm trying this.

Not bad.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Inappropriate Beer

I've posted before on the different types of beer I drink and why. When mowing the lawn in the hot as hell Oklahoma heat, I'd often drink Coors Light because it was almost as watery as ... well ... water. And sweet merciful crap, people, it's hot as balls here in Baton Rouge today at 99 degrees. This is actually cooler than the 103 degree oven I experienced while visiting my in-laws in Memphis. But the humidity here in Baton Rouge is currently 650%.

This is my way of saying that it's definitely Coors Light weather.

But ...

Well, there are just too many nifty beers for sale at the little market across the street. So I'm going with Boddington's Pub Ale today.

Mmmmmmmmmm. Creamy.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Come see the Gischler ... win some crap

Are you heading for Bouchercon in Alaska? Well, I hope to see you there. In addition to the cool Geezer Noir panel I'll be on (Saturday morning) I'll also have an "Author's Choice" thingy on Friday at 3:00 pm. This will be Victor Gischler solo. Yeah, I'm worried too that nobody will show up. So I'm going to bribe you. I'll have a some kind of trivia contest or something, and all in attendance will have a chance to win copies of my novels. Or a Buick Skylark. You guess which.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Too much of anything is ... AWESOME!

(A post in which I not only expose my nerdiness but also my lack of technical skill)

Watching a television series can be annoying. Not because the show is bad (although many are) but because you have to wait a whole week between episodes. I've developed the habit of getting entire seasons of shows on DVD and watching as many episodes in a row I can until my eyes blur and I pass out. I did this with the BBC and American versions of The Office, and also one of my favorite shows The Venture Brothers. Also with the World War II program Band of Brothers since I'm too cheap to pay for HBO.

Recently, I began the task of watching every episode of every season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yeah. I'm one of those people. I didn't used to be. I actually made fun of my wife Jackie (in a playful way) for watching the show when it originally aired. This is how I got converted:

About six or seven years ago, before my son was born, Jackie went away on a trip with her sister for Thanksgiving. I stayed home alone to enjoy some peace and quiet. I was assigned only one task. Record the 24-hour Thanksgiving Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon on the VCR. Did you know most VCRs allow you to record one channel while watching a completely different channel? Yeah, I knew it too, but I couldn't do what probably any 10 year old kid could. I could not figure how to watch a different channel while recording Buffy. For the first 4 or 5 episodes I walked past the TV, ignoring the high school kids as they battled vampires and demons. About halfway through the marathon, I sat down to eat a sandwich. I didn't get up for three episodes, and I ended up watching every second of the rest of the marathon.

Now Jackie (who is a very smart professor type person at LSU) has been asked to contribute an essay on Buffy to a book on the subject. Thus are we watching all the episodes a again.

I consider myself a Willow fan.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Are you Bouchercon Bound?

If you're coming to Alaska, I hope you'll join me and Frederick Ramsay, Sue Henry, Ken Bruen and Mary Saums for our GEEZER NOIR panel on Saturday at 10:00 in the morning.

Did I mention I was up for an Anthony Award? Yeah, I'm surprised too.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Never taunt a wizard

Man .. I love this show.

Can I write for this show?

Call me, Venture people.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A sign of the Apocalypse? Not really.

But it is nice to see that Sean Doolittle has updated his website after several long years.

Go here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Whaaaaaaaa .... (rub eyes) .... Whaaaaaaa?

It seems I've been nominated for an Anthony Award. I would like to humbly thank the people involved in making this happen. I'm overwhelmed and grateful. Truly.

Having already lost an Edgar Award, I'm acutely aware that I have some strong STRONG competition in this category ... so I'm going to start practicing my gracious loser face in the mirror.
But ... well ... damn! Very cool, people. Very cool. I'm moved and grateful.
(Yes, I know the pictured award is not an Anthony Award ... but I spent a lot of time recently watching the British Open, so ...)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Yet more clips of the apocalypse ... surf's up edition

I'm telling you ... an aqualung and a helmet and you can make it through this one.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Crime fiction has been Barry Barry good to Sean Doolittle

A number of worthy folks have been nominated for a Barry Award, but I have to give a special shout-out to my homey Sean Doolittle whose novel The Cleanup is one of the nominees. This novel is a great read, and I hope Sean will get the trophy ... or plaque ... or certificate. (I've never won an award, so I don't know.)

Good luck, Sean.

Monday, July 16, 2007

It's a Western! (sort of)

A funny thing happened on the way to bed last night. I flipped the channel to Turner Classic Movies and caught the opening strains of a Glenn Yarbrough-ish theme song and a tedious, intrusive voice-over. The opening footage was of a vast Western panorama a la John Ford in vivid Technicolor. A buzzard hovered in the air. What the hell was this? I checked the electro-guide and found out Mackenna's Gold (1969) had just started. I said to myself, "Self, give this flick 10 minutes and see what happens." Once I'd started, there was no stopping. Because the film is a perfectly conceived work of art?

No. Not even close.

Because the film was too odd and surprising to turn off?

That's closer.

Briefly: Mackenna's Gold is about a law man who gets a treasure map from a dead Indian. Other people find out about it, and the movie continues as a clusterfuck of various folks all wanting a share of the treasure. Imagine It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World set in the old west, but a lot more people are killed.

The film begins deceptively in what seems to be a traditional western, Gregory Peck on horseback, the landscape littered with orange buttes. The film quickly goes Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs. At times the film seems to want to be a traditional western, at other times a bad Sergio Leone knockoff. At one point, I would not have been surprised to see Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs rush from the canyons to gobble the characters. Near the end, we rapidly go from Indiana Jones to Irwin Allen. The style of the film seems to suffer from an identity crisis as if the movie were cobbled together from bits and pieces of other movies.

Yet there was something highly compelling about such a hodge-podge. I almost want to pick up Will Henry's novel on which the film was based. Almost.

And I must grudgingly admire director's J. Lee Thompson's seemingly drunken devil-may-care, it's my movie and I'll do whatever the hell I want attitude. Much of the film is shot against breathtaking scenery, but then other scenes are clearly set on a half-assed sound stage. I was particularly amused by the film's willingness to bring in very well-known actors, give them two or three lines, and then shoot them dead five minutes later.

"Hello, I'm Edward G, Robinson."


"I'm Anthony Quayle. I'm British."


"I'm Lee J. Cobb. You might remember me from 12 Angry Men."


"Burgess Meredith here. I just wanted to express my thanks for being included in the film and--"


There are some genuine highlights. We get several shots of Julie Newmar's butt during the underwater cat fight scene, apparently choreographed by whomever did all those Tarzan/crocodile fights. Gregory Peck turns in his usual dependable performance, and Omar Sharif's very un-David Lean-ish performance is quite good.

The special effects. Huh.

Here's how I imagine the meeting:

Director: (gulping from a bottle of rum) I want a big ghost Indian head floating over the canyon at the end of the film.

Special effects guy: Well, we'll have to cut the budget someplace else.

Director: Any suggestions?

Special effects guy: The rope bridge scene. For the long shots I'll use a plastic palomino figurine I got from my Little Farmer's Playshcool Set. The whole thing will run you about three bucks.

Director: (Gulping more rum) Super. Now lets talk about how to do a cheap earthquake.


Ultimately, this is a film with a lot of problems and many chunks and elements that fit together so strangely and awkwardly that one must simultaneously condemn it as a stinker yet admit that it's highly entertaining nonsense. I cannot bring myself to say it's a good film, but I have to admit I'm glad I saw it. It was, overall, a worthwhile and entertaining experience. Frankly, I don't want to bee too tough on the picture because part of me knows that if I had some horses and cameras and a case of whiskey, this might very well be the sort of film I'd make too. In fairness, many of the above problems might have been solved if Hollywood mofos hadn't demanded an hour be carved from the picture.

If you get a chance, see this film. No, wait. Down 4-5 beers, THEN see this film. Perfect for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 party.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Hey, maybe'll I'll put this on a book jacket

After a long day of being best man at Anthony Neil Smith's wedding, a fellow deserves a glass of cold champagne. The expression on my face seems to hint, "I know something you don't know." Trust me. I don't
If I didn't mention it before, the shindig was enjoyable and groovy, and I was honored to be part of it.
Congrats again to Neil and Brandy.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fear not, citizens. My magic is strong.

I was paging thru my copy of the Necronomicon last night, and I read where ABBA music wards off Friday the 13th bad luck.

Glad I could help.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Multi-tasking and big budget car wrecks

I used to really need to work on one thing at a time. Give something my full attention, get it right, and then move on when finished. These days I find myself juggling multiple projects. Now my little brain swims with screenplays, short-stories, and even more than one novel at a time. So while I'm eager to continue work on Bad Alchemy (vampires, alchemists, grad students ... see previous blog posts) I'm also at work on a crime novel in which the above motor vehicles will crash into various edifices, each other, etc.

I can't help it. I like breaking things.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

There's a Humongous Among us!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I offer you the Blogpocalypse post-apocalypse film and/or novel survey. I want to know everyone's favorite and or "important" post-apocalypse novel or film. I asked some pals to offer some suggestions to get us started, but I don't think the list is complete by any means ... so join in, you mofos.

My picks: I was tempted to say Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank since it seems to be one of the grand-daddies of nuclear holocaust novels, but instead I'm going to pick Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournell. The authors do one hell of a job of not only depicting the disaster itself (a comet putting the smackdown on Mother Earth) but also of depicting the aftermath. Cool stuff.

Here's what others have offered:

David Brin's "The Postman" is a favorite of mine.(Ignore the Kevin Costner film, although it's not as bad as you might have heard.) A book about hope and the search for meaning in life, "The Postman" might be a little too corny for some, but it worked for me.
David J. Montgomery

Ha, great idea. I should probably say something cool like Escape from New York or The Stand, but the post-apocalypse film I think everyone should pay attention to is the direct to video Left Behind: The Movie.Who wouldn't love Kirk Cameron as a cheesy pilot turned missionary after all of the "good christians" have been whisked away in the Rapture? The book are horrible and leaden and preachy, and so is the movie, but it has a level of cheese that elevates it to high art.
Bryon Quertermous


A couple of years ago a woman who'd never read any SF got interested, for some reason, in post-apocalypse novels. She asked me if I could give her the names of a few. The ones that came to mind were of course the ones that had most affected me when I was a beginning SF reader long ago. She'd heard of all those but one: George R. Stewart's Earth Abides. After she read it, I got an e-mail from her thanking me profusely for the recommendation. She couldn't believe she'd never heard of such a wonderful novel. Probably not too many people have, these days. It was written in the late '40s, Stewart didn't write any other SF novels (but lots of other stuff), and it's not spectacular in the Mad Max way. It's very quiet. Very powerful, too, and still as relevant now as it ever was. Jim Sallis wrote a great column about it in the Boston Globe. I'd put it at the top of my list, along with A Canticle for Leibowitz and On the Beach.
Bill Crider


I suck at this. But two come to mind. The hoopla over The Day After, that made for TV movie in the 80's detailing what happens in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. I saw it as an adult and cried buckets, because at one time it *did* seem we were headed toward total annihilation. Plus, we live in the largest concentration of nuclear missile silos in the world, and B-1's were stationed at Ellsworth Airforce Base and we were #4 on the hit list for nuclear attack.

The other one is more urban. JD Robb writes futuristic, the "In Death" series set in 2054. There are heli-cars, penal colonies out in space, other planets which are mini-cities. It's set mostly in NY after the "urban wars." What I love about it, besides Eve Dallas being a kick-ass, totally righteous cop (and it is a romance series, so the relationship stuff with her husband Roarke is killer too) is that it shows the more things change, the more they stay the same. The reasons for greed don't evolve. Since she's 24 books into the series, the character arcs are amazing.
Lori Armstrong


I have to say The Road Warrior because, well, it's the motherfucking Road Warrior. I realize that hardly makes me look like Cool Apocalypse Guy (TM), since it's sort of the obvious choice. But I don't care. That movie had all the elements of perfection: a razor-edged boomerang, human bonfires, Alpo as gourmet grub, a character listed in the credits as "Feral Kid," a compound guarded by warrior women wielding flamethrowers, creepy rapist torture-bikers, a villain called The Humongous, and an anti-hero riding the last of the V-8 Interceptors straight to hell. All back in the days when Mel Gibson seemed like a pretty cool guy. How could you lose?
Marcus Sakey


Leigh Brackett's The Long Tomorrow (1955) is an out-of-print and overlooked post-apocalyptic novel. It takes place a couple of generations after "The Destruction." Technology is outlawed, as are any towns larger than (if I remember correctly) a few thousand people. Everyone lives in fear. The book was a reflection of its time, but it still holds up well. Brackett was one of my favorite of the classic SF writers. She worked on the screenplays for The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo and The Empire Strikes Back.
Patrick Shawn Bagley


At the risk of causing Ray Banks instant heart failure: CHILDREN OF MEN (2006), a movie which I watched last week. Adapted from the novel by P D James, which I haven't read. The movie is a work of art. The premise is fairly straightforward: it's 2027 and women have stopped having babies. There are some nice little surprises along the way, but essentially this movie's so damn good largely due to the brilliant directing and excellent script, which together with one or two standout performances generate some really powerful emotions. The bastarding thing'll make the most hardboiled of individuals weep. I tell you, if Michael Caine's performance as Jasper isn't utterly heartbreaking, it's stone you've got there, mate. Fuckin' stone. There's an astonishing chase scene where the camera wanders all over the place inside the car whilst all around is mayhem. You're right there with the passengers. Terrified. Bleedin' genius, innit. But there's so much else to commend it. Go on, go watch it and if you don't like it you can pull my finger. As Jasper would say.
Allan Guthrie


Blogpocalypse pal Duane Swierczynski offers this:


What, like THE ROAD?

I choose McCarthy's THE ROAD... unless, you know, I'm misunderstanding the question. In which case, my answer is... THE RESTAURANT AT THE END OF THE UNIVERSE.

Or maybe that should be my first answer?

What the hell is wrong with me, Gischler?

Oh, and as far as a film... nothing comes close to A BOY AND HIS DOG.

When I was working for Don Johnson, I never asked him about VICE, or Jennifer Connelly's breasts... I was always asking about A BOY AND HIS DOG.

Maybe that's why Don and I don't work together anymore...

Paul Guyot


The Rift by Walter J. Williams. A massive earthquake along the Mississippi destroys the U.S. heartland. The social commentary gets to be a bit much, but the story is pretty cool.

Jeff Shelby


Okay. people ... let's hear it .....

Monday, July 9, 2007

Received news recently via bionic cyborg agent David Hale Smith that Touchstone/Fireside has green-lighted the next novel in my two book contract. It's a charming love-story featuring werewolves and a dead alchemist based on an actual historic figure. Or is it a warm-hearted coming of age story? I always forget. The title Ghosts of the Golden Lane has been crapped into the toilet by all involved, and the new working title is Bad Alchemy. Time will tell.

The process of getting this green light involved writing a synopsis. I HATE summarizing. Hate hate hate it. For one thing, I'm not good at it. I even cringe reading my own synopsis. Perhaps one of the reasons I hate to write them is that while I can summarize a basic plot, I find it very hard to summarize things like style, voice, dialogue, etc. Publishers have every right to know what is coming next, but I will continue to despise the synopsis process. Maybe if I were better at it, things would be more peachy-keen.

Much of the novel is set in Prague. Look up Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II to get a hint of things and whatnot.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Monday, June 25, 2007

More proof of grad school

Another paper I wrote in grad school. This one is about Blade Runner, one of my favorite films. You can decide for yourself if I know what the hell I'm talking about by going HERE.

More from the Gutter Snipes

A quick word about Out of the Gutter Magazine. The second issue is out, and I'm happy to report that the first issue wasn't a lucky stab at a publishing experiment. Issue #2 (and I still haven't read all the stories) seems to be saying "we've got more groin-grabbingly good fiction for you, and we're here for the long haul." A great mix of names including Christa Faust, Matt Wallace, Paul Toth, Ken Goldman, John Rickards, Rey A. Gonzales, Steve Alten and too many more to list. Subscribe now, mofos.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Up here for the wedding event of the season. Anthony Neil Smith is getting hitched, and as best man, it's my duty to fill him with beer and play golf for a few days a la Sideways.

Details to follow.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mmmmmmm ... Meat.

In the 90+ degree Baton Rouge heat yesterday, I put together my new, hot, black, heavy, iron, bruise-inducing charcoal grill, a magnificent item produced by these fine folks. I am not handy with tools. Yes, I did hurt myself. But it was all worth it, for today I will be slapping some big-ass steaks on this mofo. Mmmmmm. Dead cow.
Now a lot of folks like propane. Cleaner and more efficient. A POX on cleaner and more efficient. I want ash and smoke and sweat and a general feeling that there has perhaps been some sort of air-strike. I want to be a sweaty, charcoal-smeared mess by the time those steaks are ready. I will be drinking beer so cold it will make my teeth hurt. I GRILL! I AM MAN!
And maybe a nice salad to go with it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More Vicki Hendricks

If you were part of the recent Cruel Poetry orgy and enjoyed the novel as much as I did, then you'll definitely want to grab a copy of the novel that started it all. The kool kats at Busted Flush Press have reissued Miami Purity. Folks this is some great noir stuff. Highly recommended for those who can take it.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Yet more clips from the apocalypse

Why doesn't he answer that damn phone?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Just to prove I went to grad school (as if anyone cares)

Below is a film paper I wrote waaaaaaay back in grad school. I also posted it on Hardboiled Dixie back in the day. Down several cups of coffee and start reading. See how far you get.

Institutionalized Greed:
Economics as Law Enforcement in the Noir World

In the dark, urban world of film noir, society?s official and recognized law enforcement agencies continually prove disappointing. The police are ineffective and, in many cases, hinder the progress of the hero detective. In noir films, we suspect the detective is more likely to be "taken downtown" than are the criminals. True, the detective hero skirts the edge between the darkness and the light, but when it comes right down to it, he is our only chance for justice. The police, rather than catching the criminals, simply provide them with a level playing field.
So we must ask ourselves, in the absence of standard law enforcement, what sort of system governs the noir world? What keeps chaos at bay in the realm of urban darkness? Before answering, let us consider a general but accurate characterization of the world which film noir depicts:

[Film noir], flourishing in America in the period 1941-58, generally focuses on urban crime and corruption, and on sudden upwellings of violence in a culture whose fabric seems to be unraveling. Because of these typical concerns, the film noir seems fundamentally about violations: vice, corruption, unrestrained desire, and, most fundamental of all, abrogation of the American dream?s most basic promises?of hope, prosperity, and safety from persecution. (Telotte 2)

It is this corruption and crime which concerns our examination, for if all noir films have these elements in common, we are led to ask if the motivations for the crime and corruption in these films are also identical. In almost every case, the driving factor for one if not all of the characters in these films turns out to be greed. Greed propels Gutman?s relentless quest in The Maltese Falcon. Greed is the reason behind the elaborately planned heist in The Killing. And if the main characters themselves are not motivated by greed, they are at least the victims of others who are greedy, victims of those who exploit, murder, extort and blackmail in the name of greed. In the noir world, such situations are commonplace. The noir world exists not because these evils exists; it is the way these evils are presented and relate to one another which constructs our notions of noir. In the noir world, even greed must operate within boundaries, and it is this system of controlling and administering greed which replaces traditional law enforcement.
The films which best illustrate this system are Billy Wilder?s noir classic Double Indemnity and Robert Siodmak?s The Killers. Both films show economics as the new system of law enforcement, but one is from the detective/hero?s perspective while the other is from the criminal?s. Specifically, the characters which act in the roles of the detectives in both films are insurance investigators. By taking the investigation--the detective?s search for truth--out of the hands of the traditional detective hero and putting it in the hands of the insurance investigator, the films allow a highly focused discourse which adopts the language of the insurance business and emphasizes the influence of economics in the system which governs the daily lives of the characters. In other words, money is the bottom line where law and order and justice are concerned in the world of these films. Let us here take a much more detailed look at Double Indemnity and use The Killers to supplement our findings.

In Double Indemnity, Walter Neff?s (Fred Macmurray?s) sexual overtures toward Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) early in the film become mixed with her questions about the insurance policy which has lapsed on the Dietrichsons? automobiles. In answer to Neff?s flirtations, Phyllis seems to stick doggedly to the subject at hand, saying that the Auto Club has a better rate. Talk of insurance juxtaposes constantly with sexual innuendo, fusing sex with economics, what Peter William Evans calls "interrelated transgressive desires to have an affair with an attractive married woman . . . and to defraud the insurance company that employs him" (165). Neff must relent and gives Phyllis his standard sales pitch, but even now we see Phyllis pacing, her schemes and machinations already forming early in the film. As Neff leaves after their first encounter, Neff offers a final flirtation. "I wonder what you mean," replies Phyllis. "I wonder if you wonder," says Neff. The implication is clear that even though they pretend to talk past one another?he about sex, her about insurance?they are actually participating in the same conversation. This initial encounter sets up the parameters for an economic negotiation. Phyllis needs Neff for his insurance connection, and she barters with the only commodity of any value available to her: herself. Neff?s desire for her is plain, and Phyllis finds herself in a strong position for bargaining.

But Neff as a character is complicated, divided, a characteristic which contributes to the doubling indicated by the film?s title. Neff, as a salesman, is a part of Pacific All Risk Insurance Company. Ostensibly, he owes his allegiance to them, and it is Barton Keyes? (Edward G. Robinson?s) trust in this fact, which keeps him ultimately from solving the Dietrichson case. But Neff?s association with Pacific All Risk is based on a motivation of greed. He is a salesman who earns his living on commission. In this light, the insurance company merely provides the tool, the system whereby Neff obtains wealth. Neff?s pursuit of Phyllis leads to the corruption of this system, and it is Barton Keyes? job to expose this corruption and repair it.

Barton Keyes is perhaps the most interesting character in the film, if the least complex. Indeed, Edward G. Robinson steals every scene he?s in. As the claims investigator for the company, it is Keyes? task to ferret out those who try to corrupt the system. It is with Keyes that we get the most straightforward example of economics as law enforcement. When we first see Keyes, he has a Mexican farmer "on the carpet." He informs the farmer that his claim on a burned truck has been denied because evidence shows he set fire to the truck himself for the insurance money. In addition, Keyes "little man"--the gut feeling that kicks around his innards whenever he gets suspicious--tells him that the farmer?s claim is rotten. He bullies the farmer into signing a waiver on his claim, and the matter is settled. Under the film?s system of economics as law, no other punitive measures are taken. The farmer?s signature on the waiver repairs the farmer?s attempted corruption of the system. Keyes is satisfied that he has protected his company, and justice, to the extent that it is allowed under this system, has been served, and he proclaims to the farmer, "Now you?re an honest man again."

Keyes and Phyllis Dietrichson are exact opposites within the framework of economics as law enforcement. Whereas Keyes guards this system, it is Phyllis?s lot to constantly attempt to circumvent and corrupt the system to her advantage. According to Phyllis?s stepdaughter Lola, Phyllis has already corrupted the institutions of marriage and family in the name of financial gain. We are led to understand that as the former Mrs. Dietrichson?s nurse, Phyllis was responsible for her death. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Dietrichson marries Phyllis. The motivation is simple: money. She confesses as much to Neff. Leaving out the part about the murder, Phyllis tells Neff she married him because she wanted a home and security.

A home and security are certainly not the most unconventional reasons for marriage, but Mr. Dietrichson himself confirms that Phyllis?s greed goes far beyond the need for simple creature comforts and blames their financial difficulties on her buying "five hats at a crack." Indeed, it is when Mr. Dietrichsion dries up as a "cash cow" that Phyllis feels the need to improve her financial situation by again corrupting the system. By offering herself to Neff in exchange for his helping to get rid of her husband, she is attempting to peddle goods which do not belong to her, for she has already made a commitment to Mr. Dietrichson in the form of marriage. In the noir world, it is allowable for Phyllis to turn marriage into a financial arrangement, but it is again a corruption of the system to fence goods which are no longer hers to sell.

If Phyllis and Keyes represent opposing forces within this system, then Neff himself falls somewhere in between. As mentioned before, Neff?s loyalties are divided. His sales for the insurance company and the commissions her derives from those sales come from a fair manipulation of the system. But Phyllis provides him with two things: an object of desire which can only be obtained through criminal means, and a "shill" to help him "crook the house." In Neff?s dictaphone confession to Keyes, Neff admits that insurance folk spend so much time watching for a con, that they try to figure out how they can crook the house themselves. The Dietrichsons finally provide Neff with the opportunity to "do it right," even telling Phyllis to make sure it happens on a train to cash in on the lucrative double indemnity clause.
But Neff immediately begins to regret his decision. His divided loyalty reminds him he is friends with Keyes. He tells Phyllis they can?t meet for awhile, ostensibly to keep a low profile, but also because Neff feels guilt for his deed, a guilt compounded when he talks to Lola who understandably grieves for her father.

Once the crime has been committed, the system of economics as law enforcement is slow to leap into action, but it is clearly superior to the traditional law enforcement which so often disappoints its citizens in noir films. In one of the most memorable scenes in Double Indemnity, the president of the company calls Keyes and Neff into his office to discuss the Dietrichson case. When Neff asks if something is wrong, Keyes replies, "It?s going to cost us dough. That?s always wrong." Although an off the cuff remark, the comment clearly illustrates how matters of economics become inseparable from ideas of right and wrong, ideas which are at the very core of the film?s system of justice.

The scene is important to this analysis for two significant reasons. First, it emphasizes the failure of traditional law enforcement in the context of the noir world. The president of Pacific All Risk reports that the police have declared Mr. Dietrichson?s death an accident. He tells Keyes and Neff that he does not believe this to be the case and even tells Phyllis later in the scene that he is not satisfied with the police report, "not satisfied at all." Although the president later shows himself to be a bit of a fool, he is correct in his suspicions that the death was by no means accidental as Neff and Phyllis wished it to appear. He is right (albeit for the wrong reasons) not to be satisfied with the police report. The traditional law enforcement elements in the noir world are not motivated to pursue the investigation. As Keyes points out, "It?s not their dough." Since Pacific All Risk is economically motivated to investigate further, they suppose Mr. Dietrichson?s death not to be accidental but instead a suicide. They pursue justice in the Dietrichson case not for the sake of justice itself, but because it is financially sound to do so.
Like Double Indemnity, other noir films illustrate the shortcomings of traditional law enforcement and turn to an economic system to maintain order and administer justice. In The Killers, it is not the police or even the traditional private eye we follow on the trail of truth. Rather, the protagonist is an insurance investigator like Barton Keyes. Whereas Neff?s loyalties are divided in Double Indemnity, the doubling in The Killers manifests itself in a dual story line, criminal as protagonist in one, detective hero as protagonist in the other. (Interestingly, insurance investigator Reardon--Edmond O?Brien--works for Atlantic Casualty, so between this film and Double Indemnity both coasts are covered.)But when both story lines at last converge, it is the insurance investigator who saves the day. Standing over a dying Colfax at the end of the film, Reardon is framed with Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner) and two uniformed police officers on a staircase. In the blocking, Siodmak places Reardon two steps above the uniformed officers, emphasizing his superiority over traditional law enforcement. Other critics have also noted that film noir police don?t do their job very well, specifically in The Killers:

Another noir feature of the film is the implicit incompetence of the police. Not only did they fail to track down any of the four original robbers in 1940, but the local chief in Brentwood washes his hands of investigative responsibility for Swede?s killers and, even when his men later surround a building, they let Dum-Dum slip away. It is true that Lubinsky is able, eventually, to shoot the killers and that the master-criminal behind both the Prentiss robbery and Swede?s murder is finally exposed, but all these are primarily thanks to Reardon; without him, Lubinsky would have got nowhere. (Walker 134).

In The Postman Always Rings Twice, Lana Turner?s lawyer correctly predicts that the district attorney will be unable to prosecute her. He knows this because the insurance company has already paid off on her husband?s life insurance policy. The lawyer knows how insurance companies operate, and he remarks that if the insurance investigators failed to find enough evidence to refuse the claim, the district attorney certainly would not be able to find enough to prosecute. His implication clearly suggests traditional law enforcement to be below par if not simply incompetent.

Returning to the important scene from Double Indemnity, we see that the second important element is its depiction of Keyes? relationship with this economic system of law enforcement. The president?s assertion that the death was a suicide is the very definition of ridiculous. As claims investigator, one might figure it would be Keyes? job to support his employer?s refusal of the Dietrichson claim. Instead, Keyes quotes elaborate and detailed statistics from actuarial tables which show suicide as an unlikely possibility. Instead of supporting Pacific All Risk, Keyes supports the system in which the insurance company is but a single member. The same system of economic justice which prevents fraudulent claims also prevents Pacific All Risk from abusing its customers. The rules apply equally in both directions, a uniform code which controls the greed of customer and company alike. To the president, Keyes declares in no uncertain terms, "You?re stuck, and you?ll have to pay through the nose." Keyes may be a company man, but his ultimate loyalty is to the system of economic justice in which he is an agent.

Again, Keyes may be a company man, but he is also an investigator, and although he condemns the notion of Mr. Dietrichson?s suicide, he begins to suspect something fishy is afoot when he notices that Mr. Dietrichson had a broken leg but hadn?t made a claim on his accident policy. He stops by Neff?s apartment to discuss the matter because Keyes? "little man" is kicking around in his chest again. Because Keyes mistakenly believes Neff to be trustworthy, he speaks frankly. He tells Neff he suspects murder, and points the finger of blame at the wife: "Maybe I like to take it easy on myself," admits Keyes, "but I always suspect the beneficiary." Keyes?s suspicions are right on the money. He knows that in the system which governs his world greed is at the root of all corruption, so he simply follows the money trail to Phyllis Dietrichson. After all, this is a hardboiled crime drama, not what we?ve come to understand as strictly a mystery. The suspense lies not in "whodunit" but in how the criminals will finally get what?s coming to them. So Keyes edges closer and closer to solving the puzzle, Neff being the only piece he fails to apprehend.

Neff himself offers an explanation for Keyes? oversight in the confession he records on Keyes? dictaphone. Neff suggests that Keyes couldn?t see Neff?s involvement because it was "right under his nose." Neff is more correct than perhaps even he realizes. Ironically, the sensibilities which separate Keyes from the other characters in the film, thus enabling him to conduct an honest investigation, are the same sensibilities which prevent him from pursuing Neff as a suspect in the murder.

Although Keyes is not the protagonist of Double Indemnity, he does fill the role of the truth-seeking detective, and the sensibilities mentioned above demand closer examination. How Keyes relates to his system of law enforcement and to the other characters in the film inform our understanding of justice in the noir world.

Keyes' misplaced trust in Neff stems from Keyes? mistaken belief than he and Neff are the same kind of men. In a thematically important scene, Keyes finds Neff in his office and offers him a job by saying, "How would you like a fifty dollar cut in salary?" One would normally see this as a demotion as, in fact, does Neff. Because Neff is at least in part greed motivated, he refuses Keyes? offer. But in Keyes? eyes, the offer is a step up, not a demotion. The fact the job pays less money separates those in the job from greed motivation, thus thrusting the claims man into a position of superiority. Keyes explains to Neff that the claims man is like a surgeon, "a doctor, a bloodhound?Judge, jury and confessor." Here Keyes attempts to communicate to Neff that the work--claims investigation--is its own reward. The value of it does not derive from the economic rewards it produces.

By calling himself "doctor, judge, jury and confessor," Keyes not only confirms his role in noir?s economic system of justice and law enforcement, he also extends that authority to include other societal conventions. Keyes represents not just justice but in fact civilization as a whole, for it is through him and others like him that American institutions are protected. For instance, one of the most obvious institutions being violated is the institution of marriage. Greed in Double Indemnity is pursued and fully realized through blatant acts of adultery--another staple in the noir film. But it is Keyes? job to perpetuate and protect such institutions, and he suggests Neff should "settle down and get married." At one point in the film, Keyes refers to himself as "poppa," suggesting a protective authority and "an endorsement of a conformist society" (Evans 166). Even the name "Keyes" implies his role as a guardian and his propensity to keep things at least figuratively under lock and key.

Keyes, like many of the more traditional noir detective heroes, is an outsider, but he is not an outsider in the same way Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer are. Ironically, Keyes must be outside of the system in order to enforce it more effectively. Likewise, Spade, Marlowe and especially Mike Hammer could not possibly conduct business in their own way if they were members of traditional law enforcement. These men straddle the border between light and darkness. For instance, their relationships to greed are far different than Keyes?. Charles Gregory notes "We are disoriented by Spade?s greed ("We didn?t believe you, we believed your $200.")"(159). Part of these detectives? noir sensibilities and attributes are their inner conflicts. But even though Keyes? is an outsider, we never sense such inner conflicts in him. We trust him to serve truth in the most straightforward manner possible, a character trait which easily explains Neff?s fear of him.

Keyes polices a system which operates on the principle of greed, but he himself is not greed motivated. He is not affected by the system he helps maintain and is therefore an outsider. Yet unlike Spade and Marlowe, Keyes is more trustworthy for his outsider status rather than less so. Without greed motivation, Keyes is simply not corruptible, for he does not possess the desires that Neff or Phyllis or Hammer or many of the other characters have in the noir world. It is this incorruptibility--conferred upon him by his outsider status--which makes him the perfect "poppa" in Double Indemnity.

We have been examining economics and specifically greed at some length, focusing especially on economics as the measuring device for a system of law and justice. In "Democracy?s Turn: Homeless Noir," Dean MacCannell claims "The still unexamined tension at the heart of film noir is that between senile capitalism and democracy"(284). In a portion of his essay, MacCannell discusses the seeming tendency of capitalism to subsume democracy and to press democracy into capitalism?s service. MacCannell elaborates:

Classic film noir has an almost fatal fascination for the confrontation between capitalism and democracy, which it witnesses with an implacable numbness. In countless films . . . a tainted, slightly compromised, democratic hero battles corpulent and decadent capitalism to a draw. The basic principle that is compromised in these films, and in democracy as it is currently inflected, is inclusion: everyone is supposed to have a "place" in it; anyone can win; everyone has a voice. (284-6)

But not everyone has a voice or a chance to win in Double Indemnity. Although a rather insignificant part in the film, the elevator operator in one of the early scenes confides to Neff that he can?t get life insurance because he has a bad heart. The system precludes him even from participating let alone winning.

But we need not lapse too deeply into Marxist rhetoric to appreciate MacCannell?s observations. His essay recognizes the economic elements in film noir as a major thematic concern. Intricate capitalistic conspiracies, however, are a bit grander than we need to be. Rather, let us refocus our attention to the subject at hand: greed. What makes greed stand out as more significant than any of the other elements of the noir film? Adultery or murder or betrayal?

First of all, adultery, murder and betrayal are all usually the results of greed. Phyllis and Neff enter into an adulterous relationship because of greed. Mr. Dietrichson is murdered in service of greed, and Neff betrays his best friend because of greed. At the core of every sinister act in Double Indemnity lurks greed. The same can be argued about most noir characters in most noir films.

Identifying greed as the root of all noir evil, however, falls short of explaining how greed works differently in noir films than in others. Film noir, after all, doesn?t have a monopoly. Double Indemnity deals with greed by accommodating it. Whereas other films understandably classify greed as aberrant or undesirable behavior, the noir film includes it as a given. Greed is standard in the noir world and rather than deny it or attempt to eradicate it, films like Double Indemnity incorporate it into a system. That Phyllis marries for money or that Neff earns his commission by "glad-handing" are acceptable, if not particularly admirable, applications of greed. When greed compels them to team up and kill Mr. Dietrichson, they are abusing a system in which there are strict rules governing greed. By including greed as a natural part of the system of law and justice which governs noir, men like Keyes can, in part, stem the tide of unfairness and abuse.

It is the fact that Keyes upholds this system from without which allows him to conduct himself untainted by greed. Greed is a part of the system; Keyes is not. Thus, he can safely and objectively make judgements and rule on matters of law and justice. This is how he is able to deal with the Mexican farmer. This is why he goes against the interests of Pacific All Risk to tell the company?s president--his employer--that the suicide angle is all wrong.

Inevitably, the criminals in Double Indemnity get what?s coming to them. Just as in all classic tragedy, the protagonist brings his ultimate demise upon himself. Neff and Phyllis trade bullets, and Neff slowly bleeds as he records the events of the film into Keyes? dictapone. It seems Aristotelian aesthetics have conspired with the Hollywood Production Code to make sure film-goers know crime doesn?t pay. In James M. Cain?s novel, after all, the criminals get away. R. Barton Palmer would have us believe the following:

If [noir films] paint a terrifying picture of evil, it is only to reinforce the sense of inevitable punishment for wrongdoing effected by a moralizing conclusion. In other words, the film noir is only superficially, not essentially, different from the standard Hollywood movie, which always supports the status quo. (Perspectives 7)

Perhaps, but this hardly seems the case. Certainly, the dark, unsatisfying endings in noir films cause us to question whether or not the status quo these films advocate deserves to be supported. Hardly the typical Hollywood fare if true, and if men like Keyes defend systems, not people, let?s hope the system is worth it.

Works Cited
Double Indemnity. Dir. Billy Wilder. Perf. Fred MacMurray,
Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson. Paramount, 1944.
Evans, Peter William. "Double Indemnity (or Bringing Up
Baby)." The Book of Film Noir. New York: Continuum,
Killers, The. Dir. Robert Siodmak, Perf. Edmond O?Brien,
Ava Gardner, Burt Lancaster. MGM, 1946.
MacCannell, Dean. "Democracy?s Turn: On Homeless Noir."
Shades of Noir. Joan Copjec, ed. New York: Verso,
Palmer, R. Barton, ed. Perspectives on Film Noir. New York:
G.K. Hall, 1996.
Postman Always Rings Twice, The. Dir. Tay Garnett. Perf.
Lana Turner, John Garfield. 1945.
Telotte, J.P. Voices in the Dark. Chicago: U of Illinois P,
Walker, Michael. "Robert Siodmak." The Book of Film Noir.
Ian Cameron, ed. New York: Continuum, 1992.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Get Hard, Man

Al Guthrie's spectacular novel Hard Man is now available in the U.S. from Harcourt. I enjoyed this novel quite a bit when I was privileged to get an ARC some time ago, and it's a must read for all your noir-heads out there. Go now and buy a copy. RUN!

Dear Film Producers, Please bring you bag of money to my house.

Just finished a full draft of a screenplay with my pal Anthony Neil Smith. It's a comedy in the vein of Anchorman and Blades of Glory. In other words, it's ridiculous. That's okay because I'm ridiculous. It's fun. Trying being ridiculous some weekend. You can always go back to being proper if you don't like it.

The screenplay is called Pulp Boy, and it's about a very pulpy sci-fi writer named Emerson LaSalle who was big stuff in the 1970's but is now scrambling to save his waning career.

Why am I blogging about this? Because I always have this silly sense of accomplishment whenever I finish a project. It's nice to look at a stack of papers and say "Whew. All done."

Clips of the Apocalypse

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Random Boasting

I'm happy to say that Big Daddy Thug over at Thug Lit has chosen my short story "Kill Posse" for his upcoming ThugLit Presents: Hardcore Hard-boiled anthology which Kensington will publish next year. You the man, Todd. Thanks!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Duke

John Wayne would have been 100 years old today, and Turner Classic Movies has been showing a few of his films in tribute. I used to think it was not Wayne's job to "act" in a film. It was his job to be John Wayne. Certainly he's not what you might call a classically trained Shakespearean actor. Later, when I became more familiar with Wayne's work, I found I needed to give him a bit more respect as an actor.

That's not to say he should play Hamlet or be cast in the lead of Death of a Salesman. For the life of me I cannot remember which film featured a drunken Dean Martin as a co-star and which featured a drunken Robert Mitchum as co-star. Many of these cowboy flicks run together. But within a certain range, Wayne was actually quite talented and generally quite smart about the roles he accepted. If you watch In Harm's Way, The Searchers and The Quiet Man all in a row, you'll see he's asked to do something just a little different in each film, and he does it quite well. Like I said, he's not Olivier, but he does a little more than just stumble around calling people Pilgrim.

The three films mentioned above are probably my favorite Wayne pictures. You can throw in True Grit and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon as honorable mentions. I'd love to hear your favorites too.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The First Annual Box of Wine Writers Summit Invitational comes to an end

The bag are packed. The wine is drunk. The writing has been written. All in all it was a successful event.

Things written:

chunks of a novel
small chunk of screenplay
short story

Things eaten:

chicken wings

things imbibed:

box wine
light beer

See you next year.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

First Annual Box of Wine Writers Summit Invitational ... festivities continue

The conference was priveleged to host a special presentation by wine maker Sean Mondavi.

Try an Amazon Experiment ... at the very least You'll end up owning a cool as hell book

I've already mentioned what a great book Vicki Hendricks's Cruel Poetry is. A stunning noir novel with rich characters, a compelling story and steamy poke poke. If you're planning to buy it (and you should) then try this: purchase it from on May 25th. Word on the street is that even a modest number of purchases on the same day will do nice things to the Amazon ranking. As you know authors often struggle with ways to get the word out and promote their books. I know I'm always trying to think of new ways. So let's give this a try. And you won't be sorry. It's a hell of a novel.

Monday, May 21, 2007

First Annual Box of Wine Writers Summit Invitational -- Opening Ceremonies

The highlight of the Opening Ceremonies was when Sean Doolitte had a putt for Eagle on the Par 5 12th. Although he barely missed the putt, he had a nice tap-in for birdie. Also, we're doing some writing.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007

The First Annual Box of Wine Writers Summit Invitational

Yes, events start Sunday, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll be blogging from the event, so I'll try to keep you all updated on how things are going.

Boxed wine! Catch the fever!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Endorsements of the Apocalypse

Authors know that blurbs are a peculiar animal. We're never quite sure what difference they make (if any) but we all want them and think maybe we need them. I'm no different. I'd like to thank the outstanding folks below for taking the time to read G-Go and give me the following:

"First, who wouldn't want to read a novel titled GO-GO GIRLS OF THE APOCALYPSE? Second, who could have guessed the book was even better than the title? Part Christopher Moore, part Quentin Tarantino, Victor Gischler is a raving, bad-ass genius."
-- James Rollins, New Tork Times bestselling author of Map of Bones and Black Order

"If it's all going to go to hell, you might as well have some Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse to go with it. Weird just doesn't say it for this one. Gischler gives weird a kick in the butt, sends it right over the edge of the abyss. Wild fun."
-- Joe R. Lansdale

"Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse is funny, mordant, crazed, riviting, sardonic -- and despite all that, it's got a plot. Bravo for Victor Gischler."
-- Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Mike Resnick

"Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse proves, if proof were needed, that Victor Gischler is among the most demented, nimble, and flat-out hilarious American satirists working today. Listen closely: that sound you here, somewhere out there, is Vonnegut's applause."
-- Sean Doolittle, author of The Cleanup

"If Pynchon ever decided to write an insane action novel, this would be it. All out sustained brilliance, nobody is writing the unique lunacy that Victor Gischler is."
-- Ken Bruen, author of The Guards and American Skin

Thanks, guys.