Wednesday 14 March 2007

"Pulp writing at its worst was never as bad..."

Ah, one of those blessed days when those of us who have inflicted upon ourselves the duty of daily blogging realize we can get by with a few links to elsewhere. But what to use for a title? All the puns on 'link' must be used already. This is Heidi's latest: Linkie winkins from all over

One of the things she links to is the The Daily Cross Hatch interview with Jeff Smith. His experience with self publishing started much like my own:
"Part of the plan was that I was going to reprint the collection in books, to always keep the story available. I always wanted to do the big one volume edition, too. One of the things that I wanted to do was change the model of comics and make them restockable. You needed the early parts of the story to always be there, so when number one sold out, put 5,000 more out on the market. The next stage was to go into the trades, and keep those in stock. It was very necessary for people in the middle of the story to be able to very cheaply and very easily go back and get those."
I have for some time argued that an explanation of what a 'graphic novel' is should start with this kind of rationale. The market for comic books developed an appetite for longer and more complex and intelligent narratives and the delivery process adapted incrementally to satisfy that appetite (from different kinds of serialization models through to conceiving, completing and releasing a long comic strip in one book, along with the concomitant economic reonfigurations). To just decide that a 'graphic novel' must be a certain size and then go back through the history of the world with a measuring tape, as some are inclined to do, is, I suppose, the kind of simplemindedness you'd expect in the comic book environment.

Speaking of the 'graphic novel' (always to be spelled with the apostrophes), I hate to think that I have become by default the muggins whose job it is to explain the object to the world. In this capacity you will find me in the new issue of World Literature Today which is dedicated to the subject and is available online as well as in print. I wrote a 400 word sidebar for it (page 13) explaining why the term is hopeless. It's the easiest hundred bucks I ever made; it took me longer to write the invoice than the article. (seriously)

Yesterday I was quoting Walter James talking about No Orchids for Miss Blandish, a novel by James Hadley Chase and a series of connections wafted through my head later in the day. It occured to me that I didn't know anything about Chase, apart from, as it happens, having once read the book in question. So I checked Wikipedia (from where I nicked the image at left).

He was "British... at different times... a children's encyclopedia salesman and book wholesaler before capping it all with a writing career that produced more than 80 mystery books.
...after reading James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934), he decided to try his own hand as a mystery writer... with the help of maps and a slang dictionary, he composed in six weeks No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939). The book achieved remarkable popularity and became one of the best-sold books of the decade.
...Most of his books were based on events occurring in the United States, even though, he never really lived there. In 1943 ... Raymond Chandler successfully claimed that Chase had lifted whole sections of his works in "Blonde's Requiem". Chase's London publisher Hamish Hamilton forced Chase to publish an apology in The Bookseller."

PLAGIARISM! rears its ugly mug yet again.

When I read Miss Blandish I had a nagging feeling that there was something more than a little bogus about it. It didn't quite belong among the other great hardboiled crime stuff I was reading. And so I never picked up any of his other books. They were all over the place earlier in the '60s, but they never looked like they were for me. the covers always sported characters who could only be interested in crap like sex and money when there was obviously more important stuff to be thinking about like whether the universe was going to come in on schedule or whether we'd all be et by Galactus.
However, his book Just Another Sucker was filmed in 1998 as Palmetto 'a very underrated neo-noir' starring Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Shue, but I haven't seen it..

Coincidentally, the article on Spillane in the World Lit mag linked above shows Chandler at odds with him too. "Pulp writing at its worst was never as bad as this stuff." (source given) I was finally reminded of a moment in Ian Fleming's Live and let Die where James Bond arrives in New York to find all the hoodlums trying to act like characters out of Mickey Spillane. Now an English author was leading the field. And on his own, very English terms.

An email from movie producer Bill Horberg, who happens to be a big fan of Mickey Spillane, five minutes ago:
i'm sitting here with a copy of The Black Diamond Detective Agency in my hand.
it's pretty damn cool.
I think the size is actually great having fretted about it from the beginning.
And the colors came out nice although you'll be the judge of that with your artist's eye.
It's a magnificent thing and so satisfying to arrive at this moment of completion after such a long journey.
Now I've got to keep up my end of the bargain and try to get a goddamn film made!

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Blogger Heidi MacDonald said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

14 March 2007 at 02:25:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Heidi MacDonald said...

Eddie, I get bored and I'm easily amused...what can I say?

14 March 2007 at 02:26:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first film of No Orchids... is pretty crappy but caused some ructions at the time among critics and viewers. Reading contemporary reviews one expects something like a Tarantino movie, not the mild noirish fare that's the reality. Notable mainly for Jack LaRue in the lead, better known as cowboy Lash LaRue who receives a namecheck in.......... Pulp Fiction!

Robert Aldrich made a version of his own, The Grissom Gang, but that's not much cop either. His proper noirs like Kiss Me Deadly are far superior. Va va vooooooom!

14 March 2007 at 08:43:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Damien said...

There's a lot of pulp/noir stuff, going around, these days, isn't there? This shirt, Black Diamond, your thoughts on spillane, and that story i wrote, on Monday.

Just means it's time for more, I think. As much Chandler as I can cram into my brain, as much "Cowboy Bebop" as I can watch, and finally getting around to watching all of "T-Men."

Thank you; i think I really needed this.

14 March 2007 at 08:57:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting to see No Orchids with a Harlequin imprint. I only knew them as romance novels -- and not by reading, thank you. My mom's used book store had a wall dedicated to those things. As punishment, she would make my brother and me 'shelve the Harlequins.' *shudder* Now Harlequin is in the comics game with Ginger Blossom Manga. RE: Noir. Check out Brick and Kiss, Kiss Bang, Bang. Very different movies, both entertaining.

14 March 2007 at 11:12:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

I'm telling you Eddie, you've got to read The Vampire Lestat. He's a pulp vampire, who talks like Mike Hammer, and acts kind of like me. You'd love it if you could just get past the whole vampire thing.

14 March 2007 at 13:00:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James Robert Smith said...

Oh, by the twelve gods, no! Don't read any of that vampire crap!

14 March 2007 at 17:34:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

that's what i've been telling him all along, but he won't let up.

14 March 2007 at 19:04:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

That's because you only think you know what it is. If you'd just read it, you'd see what I'm talking about. It's not about vampires. They just happen to be the vehicle for the story. I know Alam Moore likes Anne Rice. Ask him about it. I know I've never cared what people think of me (hey, it's not my falt if people don't know how cool I am) but would I hinge my reputation on "vampire crap?" Never. I hinge it on your work, too, and I never let up. It's part of my charm.

14 March 2007 at 22:44:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried Interview with a Vampire in the mid-80s, then Vampire Lestat and felt I'd had enough after that. Damn, those vampires can talk! Being undead seems to involve not getting to the point for at least 100 pages. If Dracula had been like that Mina Harker would have been an old maid by the time he stopped yakking and crossed Europe to taste her neck.

Some nice homoerotics in Rice's books, a few good ideas like Claudia, the girl who can't grow up (purloined for Near Dark--plagiarism again!) but the acres of waffle and moping from Armand got to be a bit much for me.

14 March 2007 at 23:38:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

"Damn, those vampires can talk!"
At this point I feel it only fare to mention that these are books of philosophy, veiled as vampire novels, with a hard boiled beat. I also admire herShakespearean way of telling stories within stories.
"If Dracula had been like that Mina Harker would have been an old maid by the time he stopped yakking and crossed Europe to taste her neck."
Dracula is a pretty strait forward melodrama.
"but the acres of waffle and moping from Armand got to be a bit much for me."
Armand is a parody of his author. Lestat is her husband, who continually taunts her about her "moping." It's funny to me that a lot of the humor in Rice's books to right by people. I couldn't stop laughing when Claudia announces that she wants a coffin of her own.

15 March 2007 at 02:02:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, now I wasn't aware of any biographical intent.

Not sure I'd call them hardboiled, that usually implies a style that's pared to the essentials. See Dashiell Hammett for details. Red Harvest is full of lines like:

"We cooked some food and ate it."

No prevarication for Dashiell.

15 March 2007 at 07:16:00 GMT-5  

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