Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Book Review: Give the Boys a Great Big Hand by Ed McBain

Patrolman Richard Genero, the beat cop who made the initial body discovery way back in The Pusher, strikes gold again when he finds a discarded flight bag containing a severed hand. With nothing to go on but a printless hand and a vague description of the person who left it, the bulls at the 87th need to pull clues and suspects from thin air to discover not only who the killer is, but who the victim was.

Nothing too far from the norm here, the boys do their fair share of legwork to track down paper thin leads, the main guys on the case being Carella, Hawes. and Meyer. Parker also appears long enough to start a fist fight with Carella, already putting him above Haviland as far as chaos potential. The fight starts when Carella sticks up for Frankie Hernandez, who spends his second appearance in the city defending The Cause from Parker's relentless bigoted comments.

Nothing too spectacular takes place in this episode, although it is the second book in a row that sees Carella losing his temper, from shouting at the reluctant Douglas King in King's Ransom to taking a swing at Parker here. While he has never been portrayed as the calm one of the precinct (that would be Meyer), he has never been this hot headed.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Monday, February 25, 2008

Book Review: The Heckler by Ed McBain

A naked man, dead from a shotgun wound to the chest, is found in the park by some children. At the same time, shopkeepers in the city are receiving crank calls by a "heckler" that threatens them if they don't move shop by the end of the month.

Could these two cases be connected? Apparently so, and although such a setup makes it obvious that these two storyline will intersect, an interest in the detectives of the 87th and their procedure keep it interesting. Also interesting is the first appearance of a new recurring villain, the Deaf Man. Playing Moriarty to the Precinct's Sherlock, the Deaf Man is a somewhat low-rent criminal genius, who works his vast plan to distract the city while robbing a newly constructed bank vault with a motley crew of second-hand crooks and punks. His role as Moriarty is blatantly pointed out by Kling, who mentions having just read The Red Headed League, a Sherlock Holmes story featuring a similar bait-and-switch scenario.

Possibly the most interesting thing about The Heckler is that in the end, he is not thwarted by brilliant detective work, but by a simple twist of fate and a moment of bad luck. McBain is refreshing in his willingness to show the limitations of the department, and how human error can sometimes work in its favor. This is especially evident when Kling practically solves the whole thing in reference to The Red Headed League, but isn't able to put his finger on its relevance until it is almost too late.

Also, over forty years later, the Deaf Man's plan to distract the police force by creating a state of panic and fear with simultaneous bomb attacks throughout the city seems all too possible.

Like King's Ransom, the narrative spends a bit more time than usual with the criminals involved. This is a relief in a book with a much lengthier time frame than his time compressed one-day scenarios, as it allows passage of time in the ongoing investigation while allowing us to skip the more dreary legwork.

Meyer opens and closes this story handling the Heckler calls, while Carella and Hernandez try to track down the identity and murderer of the naked man in the park. Carella is yet again nearly killed in the line of duty, raising the question of how many times can his imminent death be used as a plot point before it gets old.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


HarperCollins Publishers will join forces with Declare Yourself, the national nonpartisan, nonprofit youth voter initiative aimed at empowering and encouraging America's youth to register and vote in the 2008 primaries and general election, to publish Declare Yourself: Speak. Connect. Vote. 50 Celebrated Americans Tell You Why (on sale: May 20, 2008) - a book to inspire, educate, entertain, and engage teens in the political process.
In the lead up to the 2008 presidential and general election, Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, will publish this collection of original essays and personal pieces about the importance of civic action. The contributors to Declare Yourself include young celebrities who will be casting their first ballot in 2008, comedians, actors, authors, athletes, musicians, political figures, and entrepreneurs. These well-known public figures will share their own experiences, relate personal anecdotes, and issue a call-to-action, encouraging young people to practice democracy and to register to vote for the upcoming election. Topics will range from "The First Time I Voted" to "Why the Personal is Political" to "Why Your Vote Counts," and more.
The book announcement comes on the heels of a record turnout of young voters in the recent Super Tuesday elections. recently reported that, in practically every state holding a primary or caucus last Tuesday, youth turnout increased astronomically, doubling, tripling and even quadrupling the turnout in the 2000 and 2004 electoral seasons.
"We are excited and honored to partner with Declare Yourself and bring together this spirited collection of diverse and uniquely American voices," says Susan Katz, President and Publisher of HarperCollins Children's Books. "We are united in our goal, which is saying to young people: get informed, get connected, declare yourselves. Become lifelong voters.
"America Ferrera, star of the hit ABC show Ugly Betty, will act as the celebrity editor and spokesperson for the Declare Yourself book. In this role, Ferrera will write the introduction to the book and also support the book through media and public appearances.
Confirmed contributors for the Declare Yourself book include: Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe, Maya Angelou, Ryan Bingham, Bonnie Bernstein, Cheryl Burke, Meg Cabot, Nick Cannon, Sasha Cohen, Lauren Conrad, Chris Crutcher, Rosario Dawson, Kat DeLuna, America Ferrera, Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, Anastasia Goodstein, Adrian Grenier, Hill Harper, Molly Ivins, Mike James, Marty Kaplan, Sean Kingston, James Kotecki, Nicole Lapin, Norman Lear, Maroon 5, Courtney E. Martin, Megan McCafferty, Naomi Shihab Nye, Hayden Panettiere, Amy Richards, Rob Riggle, Mark Ritchie, Henry Rollins, Atoosa Rubenstein, Stuart Scott, Holly Shulman, Amber Tamblyn, Aaron Tang, Aisha Tyler, Gabrielle Union, Sara Varon, Wilmer Valderrama, Alice Walker, Joan Walsh, Marcellus Wiley, and Judd Winick, and a piece by The Onion. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Declare Yourself's ongoing voter registration outreach initiatives.
"Exercising your right to vote is one of the most powerful-and personal-actions anyone can take in our country. We hope that sharing these very personal pieces will inspire millions of young people to vote for the first time-and write the next chapter in the on-going story of our democracy," says Norman Lear, founder of Declare Yourself.
In addition to HarperCollins Publishers, companies such as Cricket (Presenting Sponsor), Yahoo! (Premier Online Information Partner), MySpace (Premier Social Networking Partner), Google, Evite, Good Search, Clear Channel, Comedy Central, Good Magazine and American Eagle Outfitters have also signed on with Declare Yourself's 2008 campaign. Declare Yourself works closely with the most popular online destinations; young celebrities, sports figures and fashion designers; popular television shows; mobile content providers; retailers; video games; and media outlets to drive millions of young people, particularly first-time voters, to to register to vote.
About HarperCollins Publishers
HarperCollins, one of the largest English-language publishers in the world, is a subsidiary of News Corporation (NYSE: NWS, NWS.A; ASX: NWS, NWSLV). Headquartered in New York, HarperCollins has publishing groups around the world including the HarperCollins General Books Group, HarperCollins Children's Books Group, Zondervan, HarperCollins UK, HarperCollins Canada, HarperCollins Australia/New Zealand and HarperCollins India. HarperCollins is a broad-based publisher with strengths in literary and commercial fiction, business books, children's books, cookbooks, mystery, romance, reference, religious and spiritual books. With nearly 200 years of history HarperCollins has published some of the world's foremost authors and has won numerous awards including the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott. Consistently at the forefront of innovation and technological advancement, HarperCollins is the first publisher to digitize its content and create a global digital warehouse to protect the rights of its authors, meet consumer demand and generate additional business opportunities. You can visit HarperCollins Publishers on the Internet at and
About Declare Yourself
Declare Yourself is the national nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign to energize and empower every eligible 18-year-old in America to register and vote in the 2008 primaries and general election. Partnering with leaders in education, the entertainment industry, popular online destinations and media outlets, the fashion industry and retailers, Declare Yourself registered more than 1.2 million people in the 2004 and 2006 elections at Declare Yourself, founded by Norman Lear, was launched in 2003 as the culmination of the Declaration of Independence Road Trip, a nationwide multi-media exhibit and tour of an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Book Signing: Otto A Berliner

Award winning author Otto A berliner to attend book signing at Horizons Restaurant in the Woodcliff Hotel & Spa, Fairpoint NY on Feburary 23 from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. Period WWII music will also be performed live.

The award winning author of 'The Cobbler of Normandy' will visit with fans, autograph copies of his book and invites everyone to attend. The Cobbler of Normandy, (historical fiction), tells the exciting story of 5 people working in occupied France to help the coming Allied Invasion defeat the Nazi occupiers in France. Fast paced and filled with the real dangers faced by the French Underground, The Cobbler of Normandy is based on real persons and events in WWII France.

Otto A Berliner was announced as the winner of's Best Historical Fiction Book of 2007 Literary Award. The Cobbler of Normandy has received other critical acclaim.'s 2007 Literary Award winners are determined by votes cast by the reading public and the editors of for excellence in the literature.

Press Release: Simon & Schuster's Atria Books Acquires Flynn's Next Four Novels

CBS Films and Simon & Schuster/Atria Books -- both divisions of CBS Corporation -- have reached film and publishing agreements with best-selling author Vince Flynn for upcoming projects, it was jointly announced by Amy Baer, President & CEO of CBS Films, and Carolyn Reidy, President & CEO of Simon & Schuster.

Flynn is the author of nine best-selling novels, eight of which feature the popular character, counter-terrorism operative Mitch Rapp. There are over 10 million copies of Flynn's books in print in the U.S., and with his most recent book, Protect and Defend, he joined the ranks of those select few authors who can immediately claim the Number One spot on hardcover bestseller lists in their first week on sale.

CBS Films has optioned the rights for Flynn's Mitch Rapp character with the intention of creating a character-based, action-thriller movie franchise. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who produced two of last summer's hits -- "Transformers" and Stephen King's "1408" -- and Nick Wechsler ("We Own The Night") are in negotiations to produce the films.

Flynn's new agreement with Atria and Simon & Schuster is a four book global publishing deal for all world rights, including translation and audio. The worldwide simultaneous English language publication of the first book in the agreement by Atria and Simon & Schuster companies in the U.K., Canada and Australia will take place in 2010. Flynn will be published under the direction of Atria Executive Vice President and Publisher Judith Curr, and Vice President and Executive Editorial Director Emily Bestler, who made the acquisition.

"We have always passionately believed in Vince Flynn's star potential as a bestselling author, and equally that his books deserved the even wider audience and exposure that can be reached through feature films," said Reidy. "That this comes about through our relationship with CBS Films is even more exciting for us, and we look forward to seeing Mitch Rapp on the screen, and many more Simon & Schuster properties developed in conjunction with CBS."

"One of my first goals for CBS Films was to find a character-based movie franchise," said Baer. "With the Mitch Rapp series, Vince Flynn has created a relatable, modern, post-9/11 hero for the action/thriller genre. It is an amazing collection of creative material that offers tremendous potential for a smart, energizing new film franchise with appeal to a wide range of movie-going audiences. The publishing world has always provided abundant source material for motion pictures, and we're fortunate that our corporate cousins at Simon & Schuster attract and nurture some of the world's best literary assets."

"Vince Flynn's career has been steadily on the rise since he self-published his first book, Term Limits, and together we've watched his popularity grow with every successive publication," said Curr. "Now readers and moviegoers alike can savor more of the thrilling insider insight and verisimilitude that has made him a favorite of average citizens and the national security operatives who protect us."

"I couldn't be happier with this deal," said Flynn. "Signing up for four more books, keeping the movie in the family with CBS Films and getting Lorenzo and Nick to sign on as producers … it's the outcome I'd always hoped for. Loyalty is a big thing to me. Simon & Schuster, Atria and Pocket Books have stood by me for 10 years and done a magnificent job publishing my novels. Lorenzo and Nick have been trying to bring Mitch Rapp to the big screen since 2004, so there is a level of commitment on their part that is very comforting to me. They understand Mitch Rapp, as does Amy Baer and her team. It is going to be a lot of fun watching CBS Films hit this thing out of the park."

"Vince has created an unbelievably unique and dynamic character in Mitch Rapp," said di Bonaventura. "Nick and I can't wait to bring him to the screen and we feel lucky to be doing this in partnership with CBS."

Sloan Harris and Ron Bernstein of ICM represented Flynn for the publishing and film agreements.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A forgotten talent - Theodora Keogh

One of America’s most interesting novelists died last month but her passing barely caused a stir in the literary world – only London’s Daily Telegraph recognized this writer’s achievements with a full obituary. Theodora Keogh, who was 88, died in North Carolina on 5 January. She was the granddaughter of Theodore Roosevelt but that wasn’t her main claim to fame. She produced nine novels in the 1950s and 1960s that stood out from the crowd for their challenging and dark subject matter.

Born in 1919, Theodora began her career as a dancer. She married Tom Keogh, a theatrical designer, in 1945 and went to Europe where they led a socialite lifestyle in France. She hung out with the Paris Review crowd, including founder George Plimpton and other literary figures, while Keogh designed costumes for stage and film, and also worked for Vogue magazine.

Meg - her debut novel - was published in 1950 and it concerns a 12-year-old girl who goes to an up-market private school but mixes with the wrong crowd from the streets. The heroine is raped. Many critics were taken aback by the storyline but Theodore was just getting started.

In 1952, she published The Double Door, which has a homosexual storyline - daring for the day. That same year saw the publication of Street Music where a music critic falls in love with a child criminal. The Fascinator (1954) concerned a young girl being seduced by a sculptor. In 1961, Gemini examined the taboo subject of incest in a story about twins. Her 1962 novel, The Other Girl, was a fictional account of the Elizabeth Short’s notorious ‘Black Dahlia’ murder in 1947.

Theodora Keogh didn’t write again after 1962 but her life was rarely dull. She divorced Tom, married a tugboat captain and lived in the Chelsea Hotel. She later moved to North Carolina and married again.

Theodora’s literary legacy is that she pushed the boundaries of acceptance in literature. She paved the way for many authors.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Manson's Murder Movies

“The last taboo would be to actually kill someone in front of the cameras.”
--Six years after Sharon Tate’s murder, Roman Polanski makes a cameo in CONFESSIONS OF A BLUE MOVIE STAR -- a film that includes a hoaxed interview with a snuff film director.

The television screen flickered to life showing a grainy and somewhat shaky close-up of a fifteen to eighteen year old Caucasian girl’s face. Her eyes are wide open and a strip of gray duct tape cris-crosses her mouth. The camera pulls back to reveal her naked torso handcuffed to a metal bed frame. Her head jerks side-to-side as low moans and the squeal of metal bedsprings can be heard. The camera pans down past the rest of her naked body and focuses on her feet -- each one wired to the ends of the bed frame.

The camera sways backward to show a larger view of the room... devoid of furniture, cracked crumbling plaster walls, black plastic trash bags cover the two windows. By the looks of the surroundings this was most likely filmed in an abandoned building -- maybe one located in your city or town. After some shaky camera movement, a large man wearing a gray sweat suit enters the picture. His head is covered by a blue wool ski mask. As he approaches the bed frame, the girl starts to twist and struggle.

The man beats the girl about the thigh and stomach with a closed fist. The camera swings around focusing between the impact spots of the punches and her face. The man then removes the bottom half of the sweat suit and rapes the girl. His hands are around her neck. Seven minutes later, he pulls his sweat pants to his waist and leaves the frame.

He returns moments later. The camera zooms in on his hand -- now holding gardening shears. He opens and closes them for the camera. The camera sways to the girls face. Her eyes are closed, and there is no indication of life. The man removes her nose and ears with the shears before cutting parts of her breast.

Four minutes later he rapes her for the last time before walking out of the camera’s view.

Moments later he returns with a hack saw and decapitates her corpse. He holds her head directly in front of the camera. It zooms in for a final close-up.

What you just read was the remembered transcript of a actual snuff film. The description of which was written in the least sensational style in the attempt not to arouse or inflame any unsound persons reading this article. It was viewed several years ago by Frank Schildener at the behest of a federal agent with whom he had a working relationship. It seems that this video was found by the Feds in the possession of a paroled sex offender in Frank’s caseload. Another video found in this creep’s collection was labeled BAGMAN TEN, in which a ten year old girl is bound and suffocated by a clear plastic bag placed over her head. Needless to say, Frank went above and beyond the line of duty to send “snuff-boy” back to prison. The sex offender later testified as the State’s witness against the people who sold these videos to him.

I asked Frank if these tapes could have been hoaxed. His response, “No Fucken way! As a Probation Officer in Newark, NJ, I have viewed autopsy photos of murdered children, victims of sexual assaults, and drug addicts so wasted they appeared to be inhuman. I’m not squeamish, but this display was more disgusting than anything I’d seen before or since. I know many people would like to claim snuff films, or now, video tapes, are merely special effects, but I will tell you this, if that was F/X, then the creator was both a sick pig and the possessor of technology dozens of years beyond Hollywood... and that’s not likely.”

Many people like to believe that snuff films are either nonexistent or the product of a lone murderer who is recording his violence so that he can relive them on a later occasion. They ite the evidence of SCREW magazine publisher Al Goldstein’s $25,000 bounty for anyone presenting him with a real snuff film, a reward that has never been paid to this date. These usually are the same people who deny any form of crime that they do not see before them or have immediate evidence of it’s existence. This brand of thinking has lead to the denial of the existence of the Sicilian Mafia, the sudden discovery of the cocaine derivative, crack (despite that it had been a common street drug for almost half a decade by then), and most terrifyingly, the underground market created for child molesters. In the latter case, child molesters are able to indulge their fantasies through illegal magazines, internet websites and even packaged tours of countries in which child prostitution is common.

“Pretty soon the girls would become victims of more than being sex objects. If outsiders moved in so easily for sex, they could just as easily started maneuvering some of the girls into heavier shit -- like chains, whips, blood-drinking, animal death and even human sacrifice.”
--Charlie Manson talks about some of the people he and his family met in Hollywood. From MANSON IN HIS OWN WORDS as told to Nuel Emmons

The term “snuff film” slipped into the backdoor of the American vernacular in 1971 when it was coined by author Ed Saunders in his assessment of the Manson homicides, THE FAMILY. Between its pages many startling claims are revealed. Saunders asserts that Manson and his band of true believers had in their possession three super-8 cameras at Spahn Ranch which they used to film many unusual events. According to ex-family member Vern Plumlee, most of the films made by Mason were “you know, just crazy movies.” A person tripping on bad acid, girls dancing naked around a bon fire slashing the air with knives, and the occasional orgy “with the added spice of a few famous faces and bodies”, would be shown on a screen made from a bed sheet at any given night at the ranch. I wonder who those “famous faces” were?

But not all of Manson’s films were harmless drug induced exploits of the free love generation. During one filming session a fifteen year old girl called Simi Valley Sherri was brutally raped by Manson’s clan with such savagery that Linda Kasabian (eyewitness to the Tate killing) declared, “The whole scene was perversion like I’ve never seen before.” Little did she know then that gang rape would be a cinematic appetizer for her leader Charlie.

Armed with the knowledge that photographic evidence of Charlie’s Family activity exists, Saunders went undercover posing as a New York pornographer with a taste for the bizarre. In no time at all he found an underground film broker who was selling seven hours of Manson’s porn films. The asking price for the films at the time of Manson’s pre-trial was a hefty $250,000.

He also discovered two most shocking rumors. The first: a man named Chuck, who claimed to be a close friend of “Family murder victim” Gary Hinman, maintained he had in his possession films of a “Malibu and San Francisco ax murders.” How pathetically ironic it would be if Hinman was involved with snuff activities at his beach house -- the same house where his own ear was sliced off by the sword wielding Manson before being stabbed to death by Bobby Beausoleil. Before the night of the Hinman carnage, Beausoleil had a promising film career of his own. In his first film he appeared as an angel in MONDO HOLLYWOOD with future “Family murder victim” Jay Sebring. Another time before the camera he and fellow Family member Gypsy played in the X-rated Western epic of rape, totture and murder, THE RAMRODERS. And in his most famous and only staring role, he acted opposite Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey (who play the devil as well being a technical advisor for Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY) in Kenneth Anger’s LUCIFER RISING. According to Bill Landis’ unauthorized biography of the 1960’s underground filmmaker, Anger himself had a run-in with the law in 1965 when he delivered raw footage of THE LOVE THAT WHIRLS to a local drug store for developing. The film contained scenes of a sadistic doctor “working guys over.” One of the masochists looked so beaten that the developer turned over the film to the police suspecting that “it was a possible snuff movie.” The doctor in the film was arrested and Anger was held for questioning. No charges were filed against Anger but all copies of the film were destroyed.

The second rumor: A famous New York artist purchased from a Los Angeles drug dealer a film “depicting the ritual murder of a woman.” (It is interesting to note that this passage only appears in the first printing hardcover of THE FAMILY, and in part two of this article you’ll find out why.)

Only after delving deeper into the muck of the porn film underground, Saunders finally unearthed an individual who witnessed a few of Manson’s snuff films. The anonymous source claims that Manson and his brood hooked up with a cult of devil worshippers known as the Process Church of the Final Judgment. Together they filmed nightly secessions at a unknown beach location that involved “two key Manson female followers” engaged in intercourse as blood from a recently killed dog is poured over their naked bodies. Another grizzly scene had a black-hooded group of five standing around the naked corpse of a decapitated woman. Saunders might have also suspected Hinman of being involved with this film due to the prior rumor, and also because of the snuff film’s location. He asked his source, “What was the name of the house?” Puzzled, his reply was, “It’s not a house. It’s just a beach.” Was Saunders trying to get him to implicate Hinman’s beach house? Maybe.

“We were invited to private parties in Beverly Hills, Malibu and other exclusive areas. A lot of the movie people shot up heroin, smoked opium, free-based and snorted cocaine... We had long ago chucked our inhibitions about sex, but chains, whips, torture, and other weirdness were not part of our routine.”
-- Manson enters Hollywood society, from MANSON IN HIS OWN WORDS as told to Nuel Emmons

Another interesting turn of events happened that could have advanced Manson’s snuff career just before Helter Skelter. Years before, Manson wrote the suicide-drenched tune CEASE TO EXIST for America’s favorite clean-cut band, the BEACH BOYS. With “death” not being part of the surf culture at the time, the group changed the lyrics to CEASE TO RESIST, now a song about sexual liberation -- groovy. Charlie wasn’t pleased with the change in context. He thought the children of the sixties would embrace his death-tripping vibes. Charlie decided that he wanted to be a rock star, so Dennis Wilson, friend and supporter of the Family, made a few telephone calls.

One of the people contacted was record producer Terry Melcher, the person that Roman Polanski rented the residence at 10050 Cielo Drive from. He and friend and soundman Gregg Jacobson took a ride to Spahn Ranch to hear Manson wail prison blues and folk gyrations on a beat-up acoustic guitar. According to Melcher’s side of the story, he took a pass on Manson’s musical talents, but, Charlie, and his ragged band of run-aways, interested Jacobson. He pitched a deal to Manson that he would produce a television documentary on Manson’s communal lifestyle. Charlie agreed.

During that time, Manson’s group ripped-off an NBC news truck. Though it is not mentioned, it is highly likely that this truck was sent to film Manson for Jacobson’s TV documentary. Charlie’s band got away with tens of thousands of dollars worth of broadcast quality video equipment. Equipment that could have made him a top player in the field of underground porn.

Shortly after the theft, the documentary was called off. Charlie had bigger plans in the works. (In 1978, Manson wrote a letter to a California newspaper claiming that Dennis Wilson supplied him with thousands of dollars worth of video equipment in order to penetrate a world-wide underground porno circuit. If Manson is telling the truth, Wilson could have been the one to encourage Jacobson to film a documentary about the Family in order for Charlie to steal the video equipment. Also the second part of the claim has Manson a fledgling player in a “worldwide” porno circuit. If this is true it is certainly not because Manson had an abundance of “pretty girls.” In fact his girls were so plain looking he couldn’t pimp them out as go-go dancers -- an idea he tried and failed. His only commodity would have been snuff films.)


MANSON IN HIS OWN WORDS by Nuel Emmonns, 1986, Grove Press
THE FAMILY by Ed Saunders, 1971, E.P. Dutton and Co., Inc.
THE GARBAGE PEOPLE by John Gilmore, 1971, Omega Press
ANGER by Bill Landis, 1995, Harper Collins
KILLING FOR CULTURE by David Kerekes and David Slater, 1994, Creation Books

Monday, February 11, 2008

Book Review: WARTS AND ALL by Drew Friedman and Josh Alan Friedman

Around a million years ago, I owned a comic book shop. One day a local neighborhood jackass (who will go nameless) stumbled in with a wide grin and slides a paper underneath my unenthused eyes. The caption screamed:


The highly detailed illustrations of eight inbreed imbeciles stared up at me. Although I was being mocked, and in my own store no less, I was at a loss for a retort, for I was completely captivated by the artist’s rendering of the emotionally crippled and physically deformed comic shop brethren.
How apropos it was to find that this little artistic gem was from a book entitled WARTS AND ALL by Drew Friedman and Josh Alan Friedman. The Friedman brothers creates a surrealistic black and white stippled world of the greats and near greats; the famous and infamous, all thrown into outrageous settings and situations. My favorite: TOR JOHNSON IN NEW YORK!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Book Signings

Peter Walsh, star of “Clean Sweep”, signing copies of Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? on 2/11/08, 7:00 PM, at Borders Books – Old Country Road. Westbury, NY.
Kathie Lee Gifford, talk show host, will be performing and signing copies of Ask Me Again on
2/12/08, 6:00 PM, at Barnes & Noble – Lincoln Center. New York, NY.
Al Jarreau, jazz and pop star, signing copies of Love Songs on 2/13/08, 7:30 PM, at Barnes & Noble – Lincoln Triangle. New York, NY.
Kenny G will be performing and signing copies of Rhythm and Romance on 2/13/08, 7:00 PM, at Borders Books – Columbus Circle. New York, NY.
Idina Menzel, Tony Award winner and star of “Enchanted”, signing copies of I Stand on 2/14/08, 5:30 PM, at Borders Books – Columbus Circle. New York, NY.
Betty Buckley, Tony Award winner and star of “Eight Is Enough”, will be signing copies of Quintessence on 2/14/08 at Noon at Borders Books – Park Avenue. New York, NY.
Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate and other cast members of “The Howard Stern Show”, will be signing autographs on 2/14/08, 1:30 PM, at Borders Books – Park Avenue. New York, NY.
Suzanne Vega, singer/songwriter, signing copies of Beauty & Crime on 2/14/08, 7:00 PM, at Borders Books – Columbus Circle. New York, NY.
Kathleen Turner, star of “Body Heat” and “Romancing the Stone”, signing copies of Send Yourself Roses… on 2/18/08, 7:00 PM, at Barnes & Noble – Lincoln Center. New York, NY.
Chuck Schumer, US Senator, signing copies of Positively American on 2/19/08, 7:00 PM, at Barnes & Noble – Court Street. Brooklyn, NY and on 2/25/08, 12:30 PM, at Borders Books – Broadway. New York, NY. WARNING: Do not get between the Senator and a TV camera!
Deborah Norville, host of ”Inside Edition”, will be signing copies of Thank You Poweron 2/21/08, 7:00 PM, at Borders Books – Columbus Circle. New York, NY.
They Might Be Giants, pop stars, will be performing & signing copies of Here Come the 1, 2, 3s
on 2/23/08, 2:00 PM, at Borders Books – Columbus Circle. New York, NY.
Valerie Bertinelli, star of “One Day At A Time”, signing copies of Losing It on 2/27/08, 12:30 PM, at Barnes & Noble – Fifth Avenue. New York, NY.
Attention Monster Fans.... Get your plane ticket!
Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, & Forrest Ackerman, 3 legends of science fiction, will be speaking & signing copies of their books on 2/25/08, 7:30 PM, at Mystery & Imagination Bookstore - North Brand Blvd. Glendale, CA.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Book Review: Killer Instinct by Jane Hamsher

The key to a really great "Behind-The-Scenes" book is an impartial perspective, and perhaps that is the one area this book falls short. Unfortunately, it isn't the only area.

Jane Hamsher can possibly be forgiven for not taking a step back and telling the facts without a personal slant to them; after all, she isn't a journalist, and this isn't really a straight forward making-of book (as the title says, its about the producers). What I can't bring myself to overlook is how badly one-sided and self-serving the book actually comes off as. To beleive this book to the fullest, you would have to go along with the idea that Jane Hamsher was the not only the sole reason this movie ever got made, but that it would have been a complete disaster if it wasn't for her. I really would have a problem with that, if she wasn't the one who kept underlining it as fact.

According to Jane, she was the lone sane voice amongst the madding crowd. She was responsible for the artistic choices that made the film great, and all of the decisions that made them happen. Of course, everybody else was wrong, so each choice she made was an uphill battle. Not just because she was the only smart and sane person, but also because she was the only woman amongst a crowd of stupid men.

Its sad, but it seems she spends half the time painting the ultimate feminist picture on how it took a woman to do a man's job. I'm sure in some cases that was true, but she makes it as if the weight of all responsability was resting on her shoulders. She seems to take great pleasure in repeatedly pointing out that she has to dress her own production partner, and shows contempt for the men that were afraid to let her on the set where convicted murdurers and rapists were running around loose "pretending" to riot. She also spends a great deal of time obsessing on Oliver Stones questionable attitude towards women, and successfully transfers those insecurities to most of the crew as well. Whenever someone disagrees with her, they are either stupid or afraid of a woman in power. Those silly men!

Between the holier-than-thou attitude and hear-me-roar male bashing, there was some great info on the shooting of the film, but not nearly enough. And what info there is must be taken with a grain of salt, when you realize that its all told to make her look good (see: perfect). If you want to hear a producer pat herself on the back (at the expense of everybody else involved in the film) over and over again than this is the book for you. If you want the real story on the making of Natural Born Killers, you might want to look elsewhere.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

N.Y. Times reporter gets subpoena on book

A New York Times reporter has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in Virginia about a book he wrote on the CIA.

James Risen's lawyer, David Kelley, said that the subpoena involves one chapter in "State of War" on the U.S. intelligence agency's efforts to get information on the Iraqi nuclear program, the Times said Friday.

"We intend to fight this subpoena, so we'll likely be engaging in some sort of litigation," Kelley said. "Jim has adhered to the highest traditions of journalism. He is the highest caliber of reporter that you can find, and he will keep his commitment to the confidentiality of his sources."

Risen and Eric Lichtblau won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for articles in 2006 on warrantless wiretapping. The book took off from that series.

The book was published by the Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. Martha Levin, the executive vice president and publisher, called the use of confidential sources "one of the bedrock principles of a free and open society."

Risen was ordered to testify Feb. 7 before a grand jury in Alexandria, Va.

Monday, February 4, 2008


Let's break the format of this blog so I can share with you some memories of a favorite childhood sci-fi flick now availble on DVD.

"SPECTACULAR ADVENTURE BEYOND TIME and SPACE... as CINEMAGIC TAKES YOU TO..." That is the tag line for AIP's 1960 super sci-fi spectacular, The Angry Red Planet, and as Walter Brennan used to say, "That's no brag, just fact!" Well, maybe just a little brag.

The two men responsible for creating this bizarre but enjoyable ride through space are Ib Melchior and Sidney Pink. Melchior, who in 1976 was awarded the Golden Scroll by the Academy of Science Fiction for Best Writing, served as the film's co-writer and director. Ib is also known for writing such films as LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG, WHEN HELL BROKE LOOSE, JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET, REPTILICUS, ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, AMBUSH BAY and DEATH RACE 2000. The other conspirator was legendary B movie producer and co-writer, Sidney Pink. Sidney's thirty year body of work, also impressive, is too numerous to list completely, so here are some of the highlights. PRYO, SECRET AGENT 007, REPTILICUS, JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET, BWANA DEVIL (the first color 3-D film), EXQUISITE CADAVER and THE MAN FROM O.R.G.Y. (!).

Ib Melchior was introduced to Pink by AIP actress, Nora Hayden. He quickly struck a deal with Pink to re-write the first draft of THE ANGRY RED PLANET, (then called INVASION OF MARS), free of charge if he would be allowed to direct it for scale. Pink happily agreed, but would soon regret his decision. Pink recalls after reading Ib's treatment, "Ib finished the script, but none of us were pleased with the results. He had shortened or removed action sequences and devoted too much time in the spaceship to talking and explaining. This would have been fine if we had a Billy Wilder to write the dialogue, but Ib was a far cry from Wilder." Pink then had to re-write the script back to its original action formula, but kept many of Ib's scientific data about rocketry and celestial navigation that added a greater sense of realism. Pink also found fault in Melchior's direction, or lack of it, "From the first hour on the set, it was evident that Ib Melchior could never get the picture done. He was unable to set up even his first shot, and we lost three hours before Stanley (Cortez, the film's cameraman) took charge. He quietly but firmly took Ib by the hand and issued his own orders through Melchior." Both men also share writing credit for REPTILICUS, a reunion which, much to Pink's chagrin was to link their reputations. As a result, AIP, considering them to be a writing team, brought them together for a third and last time for JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET. Pink would later note that this last experience was not much better than the first. "As usual, Ib's script was wordy and full of banalities that hindered the action needed to keep the movie interesting. Ib thought the worth of the script was measured by the number of words and dialogue it contained." The reunion was not without some benefit, however. Pink admitted that Melchior did contribute the scientific data that gave JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET, "...a touch of reality".

Sidney Pink retired from films in 1970 and is living in Florida, where he patiently waits for residual checks. Today, Ib Melchior is also out of the movie business and is living in California, where he writes spy thrillers based on his experiences as a spy during World War II for U.S. Military Intelligence.

The film starts without credits but the usual stock footage of the Capitol dome and then fades to the Pentagon (remember, N.A.S.A. wasn't around yet). a military motorcade comes to a halt as General Kreger exits and makes his way to a guarded conference room, equipped with standard B movie props like an American flag and a chart of the solar system. The General, head of the Mars Rocket Project, recites this somber statement to civilian advisors and top brass alike. "At 03:00 this morning the expeditionary X 1 rocket ship, missing for sixty one days was sighted by Mount Palamar drifting in orbit some 90,000 miles in space. All attempts to establish radio communications have failed so far. We don't know if anyone is alive aboard. The MR1 appears to be a dead ship...Gentlemen, the Mars rocket must be retrieved and brought back to Earth in tact."

The group seems to be amazed by such an impossible task. The situation seems hopeless until one professor remembers that the X 1 rocket has a remote controlled auto pilot. Once activated, it will allow the X 1 to land safely at a Nevada Air Force Base. If this is a true depiction of the early days of our space program, this would explain Sputnik. After a short jet ride to the base via stock footage we are bombarded with scenes of radar operators staring at their screens, airmen adjusting a satellite dish, a 1960's state of the art digital countdown, and countless other military tableaus. It seems that Pink received permission by the U.S. Air Force to film on one of their bases. After working on Pink's nonsensical script, this threat of realism was perhaps too much for Melchior to resist, for it seems to go on forever. Knowing Melchior's reputation for long winded scientific jargon, his camera crew is probably still there, sending reels of film back to the now defunct production company.

Through a vignette of newspaper headlines, we join all of America in wondering the uncertain fate of the four astronauts who manned the MR1. News reel film is shown on television of Colonel Tom O'Bannon, Air Force pilot and ladies man extraordinairre. It's extraordinary that he could fly the rocket with his hands all over his female co-astronaut, Dr. Iris Ryan. The beautiful biologist was portrayed by Nora Hayden, who just recently wrote the best selling sex book, HOW SATISFY A WOMAN EVERY TIME. Chief Warrant Officer Sam Jacob is the good natured strongman and class clown. Every sci-fi B movie of this time had it's man-child sidekick for comic relief just in case the monsters were not funny enough. Veteran character heavy, Jack Kruschen, plays this part to the hilt (he smuggles comic books aboard the rocket and claims Mars in the name of BROOKLYN!). And finally Les Tremayne, who provided the voice of Dr. Quest in the JOHNNY QUEST cartoon series, is aptly suited to play Professor Theodore Getell, designer of the rocket and the world's foremost authority on space travel. Did you think that General Kreger would send this crew up without someone like the Professor? After all, someone has to keep the rocket on course when the rest of the crew is busy monkeying around. A cursory examination of the crew's make up resembles another space traveling quartet, namely Marvel Comics' THE FANTASTIC FOUR. At one point in the film our astronauts are in danger of being exposed to cosmic radiation. In case you're not well read, cosmic radiation was the source of The Fantastic Four's superpowers. Is it possible the comic's creator, Stan Lee, was influenced by Pink and Melchior's classic? But I digress.

It's zero hour at the air base. We are again tortured by endless scenes of technicians adjusting telescopes, radar operators viewing a screen, and airmen waiting by jeeps for the landing of the rocket, some of whom are less than optimistic. When the rocket does land, it is greeted by a flurry of rescue personnel. The MR1's only survivors are an astronaut lying on a stretcher who's identity is hidden beneath a sheet and a dazed Dr. Ryan. They assure her he will be cared for, but she asks, "How do you cope with that?" The unknown crew member's oozing arm dangles from the sheet as he, and Dr. Ryan, are transported to the base hospital. Once there, the condition of the unknown astronaut is grim. A parasitic growth is spreading throughout his body, and being of unknown origin, the doctors are helpless to treat it. The only key to the puzzle rests with Dr. Ryan, who is suffering from shock and exhaustion. Semi-conscious, she is questioned by General Kreger and the Base doctor. Dr. Ryan can recall the forty seven days spent in the rocket's impressive control room and the landing on the planet's surface, but when she remembers seeing a Martian face at the rocket's porthole, she starts screaming uncontrollably.

The Doctor surmises that something Dr. Ryan experienced on Mars was so horrible that it's causing her conscious mind to block it out. Fearing that the alien infection may be contagious, possibly spreading beyond the base to infect all the people of Earth, the General is desperate for the information that's contained in Dr. Ryan's sub-conscious. He then proposes the doctor treat her with narco-synthesis, a drug that will cause her to remember facts under interrogation. The doctor warns the General that any information gained by this procedure will be colored by the patient's own perceptions of the events. The distortion may be great since the initial experiences were too horrible for her to cope with in the first place. There is also the added risk that, "her mind might snap if we forced her to remember the horror she so carefully obliterated from her conscious level." Of course we know there is no such drug called narco-synthesis. The only existing drug at the time that has the same effects was lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD. During World War II the Nazis tested mescaline on prisoners at Dachau concentration camp. They were looking for a way to brainwash people, but soon found it was an effective tool for interrogation. After the war this project became known to U.S. Military Intelligence who, with the Central Intelligence Agency, continued the Nazi drug experiment using LSD on American service men. These experiments continued into the late 60's. It is altogether possible that Ib Melchior, being in Military Intelligence, knew of these classified experiments and incorporated them into the script. Could this be one of the touches of reality that Pink complemented Melchior for? Fearing for the life of her companion, our brave Dr. Ryan insists on the treatment and returns us to Mars.

The crew dons spacesuits and is ready to explore the surface, looking for the alien Iris saw at the porthole. An alien she describes as, "a huge distorted face with three bulging eyes!". Once outside, the film takes on a hazy red distortion to represent Dr. Ryan's drug induced remembrances of the Martian atmosphere. Pink named this process Cinemagic, and it was achieved by overlapping the positive and negative film print at a 45 degree angle, and then tinted with a red monochrome color. This procedure caused the film's budget to soar from $227,000 to $277,000, but was so effective that Pink used it again in JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET and REPTILICUS. The Martian landscape is represented by sprawling earth-like vegetation and painted backdrops of weird plants and mountains (courtesy of Cinemagic's inventor and TARP co-producer, Norman Maurer, who was the son-in-law of The Three Stooges' Moe Howard.). The expedition turn potentially deadly when Dr. Ryan is entangled in a man, or in this case woman, eating plant. After being hacked to safety by a machete wielding O'Bannon, the group returns to the ship. Once there Professor Getell informs the group of his theory of a superior alien intelligence that controls all life on Mars. The others are skeptical of his theory until the rocket is discovered to have an ionic field surrounding it that prohibits radio communication to Earth.

The quartet returns again to explore the surface, looking for any signs of intelligent life. This time the trouble starts when Iris mistakes the legs of a forty foot spider/bat creature (designed by Mauer) for a clump of trees. The creature attacks the party, pinning Professor Getell between two rock formations. The creature is thwarted when Sam Jacob blinds it with his ultra sonic freeze gun, causing it to shamble away. The team continues their survey, until they are stopped by a lake of oily black fluid. Unprepared to cross it at this time, the group returns to the rocket, unaware that a three eyed Martian spies on them from a distance.

Back in the rocket's controlroom, Colonel O'Bannon is in concurrence with the professor's "alien control" theory and deems it to dangerous to continue the mission. The crew initiates blast off, but the rocket is held motionless by a Martian forcefield a hundred times more powerful then the rocket's jets. Now captives, the crew's desperation prods them to look for answers that may lie on the other side of the lake.

The astronauts paddle a rubber raft across the black Martian lake. With the aid of binoculars, they see the Martian city located in the center of the lake, containing buildings over half a mile high. The group is hopeful that they can reason with the Martians, and that they will be allowed to leave in peace. But as the raft floats closer to it, a huge amoeba-like blob bubbles to the lake's surface. The crew quickly paddles back to the banks and makes a run for the rocket with the amoeba still in pursuit. At this part of the film, we must say good-bye to Sam Jacob. Lagging only seconds behind, he gets absorbed into the blob's center, where it's internal acid will eventually dissolve him. Mars draws first blood.

Once safely aboard, Colonel O'Bannon notices a small piece of the blob is burning into the arm of his space suit and he quickly sheds it. Still panicked from the loss of Jacob, their run of bad luck continues when the team discovers that the blob has engulfed their ship and is eating its way though the hull. Stranded, it is just a matter of time before the blob reaches them. Their only chance is to reroute the radar's electricity to the outer hull, in hope that it will fry the menace. The computers ( $1,000,000 worth, supplied by the Burroughs Company for the film) are rewired to the outer hull and the switch is pulled. A million amps later, the blob is reduced to a pool of slime. Just then the forcefield is lifted as a ominous message begins to be transmitted through the rocket's radio. "Men of Earth, we of the planet Mars give you this warning. Listen carefully and remember...". The three eyed Martian face appears at the porthole again, and Iris faints.

The ship is enroute to earth as Iris wakes. The Professor, slumped at its controls, is dying from internal injuries he suffered from the force of lift-off. His last words are, "Tom...the cabin...the cabin!" Mars claims its second victim. Dr. Ryan enters the ship's cabin to find O'Bannon in his bunk unconscious His arm covered with green growth, she tends to him as the rocket continues its long voyage back to Earth. Her tale ended, we once again find Dr. Ryan is at the base hospital. Now that the doctor knows the source of O'Bannon's infection, they have a chance of saving him. Days pass, and with Dr. Ryan's help, the doctor kills the amoeba with mild electrical shock and the Colonel is miraculously cured. All is finally well until a worried General Kreger enter the hospital room and plays the message from the MR1's flight recorder. "Men of Earth, we of the planet Mars give you this warning. Listen carefully and remember. We have known your planet Earth since the first creature crawled primieval slime of your seas to become man. For millennia we have followed your progress. For centuries we have watched you, listened to your radio signals and learned your speech and your culture. And now you have invaded our home. Technological adults but spiritual and emotional infants. We kept you here deciding your fate. Had the lower life form on our planet destroyed you, we would have not interfered. But you have survived. .Your civilization has not progressed past destruction, war, and violence against yourselves and others. Do as you will to your own and to your planet, but remember this warning. Do not return to Mars. You will be permitted to leave for this sole purpose. Carry the warning to Earth. Do not come here. We can and will destroy you, and all life on your planet if you do not heed us. You have seen us, been permitted to see our world. Go now and warn mankind not to return." The planet Mars fills the screen as the credits roll, leaving today's viewers with the question, "What really happen to the Mars probe Viking?"

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hour of the Wolf Radio Show: Ron Goulart Interview

WBAI, NY's Peace and Justice radio Station just archived an interview heard on Hour of the Wolf sci-fi show with Ron Goulart , who discusses his life work of well over 200 books, including his Groucho mysteries and Tekwar novels (attributed only to William Shatner,) as well as his association with Philip K. Dick.