::Literate Blather::
Monday, August 25, 2008
5 Questions About: Duane Swierczynski

An Interview with One of the Hottest Thriller Authors in the Business

(Perhaps it was destiny that Duane Swierczynski became a writer – his name contains just about every letter in the English alphabet. Duane is the author of several sizzling fast thrillers – including the high-octane “Severance Package” (which was recently optioned by Lionsgate for a Hollywood movie), “The Blonde,” “The Wheel Man,” and “Secret Dead Men.” Duane is also the primary writer of the Marvel Comics’ “Cable” series, but has also written comic stories for Moon Knight, Punisher and Iron Fist. We love writers at DaRK PaRTY – especially ones we can root for in the cut-throat industry of telling lies and selling them. Duane is one writer to keep an eye on. The 36-year-old novelist and Philadelphia native was gracious enough to answer our questions about the writing life he’s been enjoying so far).

DaRK PaRTY: What's the deal all of a sudden with comic book writers turned novelists? Are you all serious writers struggling to get discovered?

Duane: If I wanted to get discovered, I'd come up with a cure for static cling (I'm close, damnit... so, so close...). But I was a novelist first, and the comic book writing thing was a happy surprise. To

me, it's a way to satisfy my storytelling urges in two very different ways. Novel writing is a long, solitary enterprise; comic scriptwriting is collaborative and deadline-oriented. I like having both.

DP: You're also a former journalist. Is writing for a newspaper a good training ground for writing fiction?

Duane: I think so -- look at James M. Cain, Laura Lippman, Michael Connelly, and the other dozens of crime writers who started out as newspaper reporters or columnists. If you're lucky, you'll encounter some editors who will help you beat a lot of the bad writing out of your system. There's nothing like seeing a page of your writing covered in red ink.

DP: You recently decided to stop working a full-time salaried job to dedicate yourself to your own writing. Was it a difficult decision? Isn't it kind of like tightrope walking without a net?

Duane: Actually, I have a net -- an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics. That said quitting my job wasn't exactly an easy decision. But I'm glad I did it.

DP: Your latest novel "Severance Package" is a full throttle thriller with lots of gore. A lot of reviewers have compared it to a movie. Did you visualize it as a film or a comic book first? What was the writing process like for this book?

Duane: It was always meant to be a novel. And it followed my usual pattern: I started out with a situation, then kicked around some characters who would be ideal for that situation, then came up with a vague goal in mind -- where I thought I wanted the characters to end up. But most of the writing was improvised; I plotted very little in advance; which is essential for me. Nothing worse than being bored by your own story.

DP: Who are your favorite fiction writers and which writers of the past have inspired you?

Duane: There are too many living novelists to include, and I wouldn't want to leave someone important out. But as far as dead ones -- aside from the usual suspects? Fredric Brown was a huge influence, because he knew how to inject humor into a story like nobody else. And James M. Cain for his economy and muscle. I read a lot of their work early on, and I keep coming back to them.

5 Questions for the Author of "The Stupidest Generation"

An Interview with Best-Selling Author Kim Harrison

5 Writers Every Man Should Read

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Thursday, August 21, 2008
A Slightly Intoxicated Batman Gives Some Frank Career Advice to Aquaman
(Scene: A quiet table in the backroom of Granny Goodness’ Feel Good Saloon in lower Gotham.)

AQUAMAN: Hey, thanks for agreeing to meet with me, Batman.

BATMAN: Yeah, yeah. (To the waitress) Gimme a scotch and make it a double, sweetheart. (Watching the waitress leave) Is she new?

AQUAMAN: I don’t know.

BATMAN: Christ, she’s got a tighter ass than Catwoman. And, dude, you can bounce a bat-a-rang on that bootie. Have you seen the latest Hollywood returns?

AQUAMAN: Ah, no.

(The waitress delivers Batman’s drink. He winks at her and she rolls her eyes.)

BATMAN: $440 million gross for “The Dark Knight.” Can you believe that shit? They fucking love me.


BATMAN (Slurping his drink): Wow? Wow? Who are you to judge? When’s the last time they made a movie about Aquaman?

AQUAMAN: Two years ago!

BATMAN: Two years… Wait a minute! You’re not counting that piece of shit made for TV movie? I’m talking about Hollywood… movie theaters. You get me? And I’ve got the real answer for you – NEVER!

AQUAMAN: Hey, come on. The lead actor Justin Hartley wasn’t half bad.

BATMAN (Laughing): He was better playing Green Arrow in “Smallville.” Way better. “The Dark Knight” is my sixth movie since 1989. George Clooney played me! Fucking Val Kilmer.

AQUAMAN: You’ve made your point.

BATMAN: I’m the balls. Who’s bigger than me?

AQUAMAN: Spiderman?

BATMAN: Spiderman? Bug boy? Robin could kick his skinny, whiny ass.

AQUAMAN: All right. You’re hot. Bigger than Superman.

BATMAN (Snickering): I know. It kills him. Man of Steel. Did you watch “Superman Returns?” Holy shit did that suck! Is there a more boring villain than Lex Luthor? Come on, people! Lex Luthor?

AQUAMAN: Listen this is kind of what I wanted to talk to you about.

BATMAN: What? Movies?

AQUAMAN: Well, you know, image.

BATMAN: You mean like being the Dark Knight or the King of the Sea?

AQUAMAN: What’s wrong with King of the Sea?

BATMAN (Laughing): It sounds like a bargain brand of tuna fish. Look at yourself! For Christ sake you’re wearing a yellow shirt with scales and lime green pants.

AQUAMAN: Hey, Robin wears yellow.

BATMAN: You see Robin here? Huh? Has Robin been in any of my movies lately? The freak. You think he gets any tail wearing those stupid shorts? Yellow? What kind of superhero wears goddamn yellow? Not even the broads wear yellow.

AQUAMAN: Wonder Woman has a golden lasso.

BATMAN: Wonder Woman has gravity defying tits. And she doesn’t wear yellow, douche bag.

AQUAMAN: Is that kind of language necessary?

BATMAN: You just don’t get it. You’re vanilla, man, totally vanilla.

AQUAMAN: So I should wear black then?

BATMAN: Did I tell you to copy me? Why not silver? Silver is cool. Or even like a deep purple.

AQUAMAN: That’s it then? I’ll get a movie if I wear purple?

BATMAN: I didn’t say that. Dude, you talk to fish.

AQUAMAN: So? Telepathy is one of my powers. I’ve got enhanced strength and speed. I can breathe underwater and dehydrate people. That’s pretty cool.

BATMAN: Big deal.

AQUAMAN: Hey, you don’t even have super powers! You’re just a guy.

BATMAN (Shrugs): It’s about attitude. Style.


BATMAN: Water just isn’t cool. Aquaman? Please! Your name sounds like some kind of yuppie water filter. You hear what I’m saying? Now Batman! Jesus, I get chills!

AQUAMAN: So a silver costume and a new name?

BATMAN: Yeah. How about Water Demon? Or Sea Fury?

AQUAMAN: I don’t know.

BATMAN: Or Liquid Lord. Makes you sound like a fucking Greek God.

AQUAMAN: Aquaman has history though.

BATMAN (Standing): Whatever. Keep your stupid name and your ballerina outfit. I’ve got a date with Poison Ivy and I’m late. Swim home to your goldfish and try not to “dehydrate” anyone on the way.

AQUAMAN: Ah… all right. We still on for poker Monday night with Green Lantern and the Flash?

BATMAN: Maybe. I’ll call you.

10 Superheroes with the Coolest Powers

Batman Wises Up

The Best and Worst of Superhero Movies

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Summer Blockbusters Rejected by Hollywood
Green Blood: Rambo vs. Predator vs. Aliens

Heroes Never Die in Space

While infiltrating a top-secret CIA military installation in Rwanda to free his kidnapped son (Shia LaBeouf), Rambo (Sylvestor Stallone) is accidentally blasted into space with a squad of Predators trained to intercept a spacecraft headed to earth loaded with deadly aliens. Joining with the captain of the Predator team (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) Can Rambo and wise-cracking son successful team-up with the deadly Predator captain (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) and his squad? Will the intergalactic heroes save the earth from the alien invasion?

The Knocked Up Express

Put This Pregnancy Test in your Pipe and Smoke It!

This Judd Apatow action comedy features Jerry Bigelow (Steve Martin) as the divorced father of 10 children who quits his stressful job in advertising to work as the manager of a group of pot smoking misfits at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Malibu. He’s introduced to the local drug dealer Nancy (Meg Ryan) by his assistant manager Mickey (Seth Rogen), who also happens to be an undercover DEA agent. When Nancy ends up pregnant, Jerry reluctantly volunteers to accompany her to a drug buy with a ruthless Columbian drug lord (Cuba Gooding Jr.). Things go horrible awry and Jerry and Nancy end up on the run from the FBI and the Columbians. Will they escape before the baby comes?

Aquaman: The Motion Picture

Terrorists Get Fried… Fish Style!

This Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster features Orlando Bloom as Aquaman in this action-packed superhero story about the King of Atlantis. Aquaman and his queen, Aquawoman (Kristen Dunst), are vacationing in the Caribbean Sea when a passing school of dolphins inform them about an evil plot by a group of Middle Eastern terrorists to use a secret Russian weapon developed during the Cold War to evaporate the Atlantic Ocean. Aquaman uses his telepathy powers to build an army of fish and sea creatures to battle the terrorists as they race against the clock to the save the second largest ocean in the world. Chris Cooper stars as the terrorist mastermind El Algeria.

PDA: People Dicing Albino

Don’t Answer That Email… It Might be Him!

Director Eli Roth directs this terror filled action movie starring Lindsey Lohan as rising PR executive Trisha Dolan. When she is promoted to vice president, Trisha is given the gift of a Blackberry personal digital assistant by a mysterious IT guru (Morgan Freeman). Trisha begins to get emails from a phantom albino (Mark Calaway the Undertaker from the WWE) who starts to chop up the people in her contacts list in alphabetical order. Next up on the victim list is Trisha’s stand-up comedian fiancé Gary (Jonah Hill). Can Trisha and Gary thwart the phantom albino and discover the secret of the haunted PDA?

Trampoline Fever

No Bounce – No Glory!

Will Ferrell plays Harmon “Jumper” Jumpstart the washed up coach of the U.S. women’s Olympic Trampoline team. After advising his young protégé (Dakota Fanning) to try a quadruple spinning somersault at the World Games that goes terribly wrong when she accidentally lands on and kills the Russian judge, Jumper is fired and ends up drunk and disorderly in his hometown of Jeepers, Ohio. Goaded into coaching a prison trampoline team at the maximum security prison by his high school buddy (John C. Reilly), Jumper reconnects with his sport and turns a group of misfit criminals into a world class team of trampoline athletes. Also starring Paul Rudd as yuppie serial killer Timmy Bradlands and Steve Carell as cat burglar Yancy Cloud.

Save Molly: 10 Great Teen Flicks from the 1980s

Valuable Lessons from Hollywood

Our Favorite Will Ferrell Lines

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Monday, August 18, 2008
The Sexiest Song Ever Recorded?

Who Can Match the Sex Appeal of Nancy Sinatra Singing "These Boots Are Made for Walking?"

Nancy Sinatra may not have invented the concept of pop singer as sex kitten, but with her 1966 hit “These Boots Are Made for Walking” she came damn close to perfecting it.

Can you say: Purrrrrrrrrrrr?

Rock critic Tom Breihan describes the song as “maybe the finest bitchy kiss-off in pop history.” That’s putting it mildly. “Boots’” is subversively nasty stuff – conjuring images of erotic, sadomasochistic encounters in hotels with underage girls that would make your hometown minister sweat through his priestly collar.

Take a gander at lyrics like: “You’ve been messin’ where you shouldn’t have been a messin’/ and now someone else is gettin’ all your best.”


“You keep playin’ where you shouldn’t be playin’/ and you keep thinkin’ that you’ll never get burnt. Ha! I just found me a brand new box of matches yeah/ and what he know you ain’t had time to learn.”

I’m starting to sweat myself.

“Boots” was written and produced by Texas-born Lee Hazlewood who instructed Sinatra to sing the song as if she were a 16-year-old girl breaking up with a 40-year-old man. Apparently, Nancy took that advice to heart and the result was seductive, high-camp pop hit.

She sings the song like a playful seductress who knows she’s got the goods – and knows how to use them (see the go-go video above). Nancy knows how to use that smile of hers to good effect – using her voice (and in the video her eyes) to convey sexiness more effectively than most of today’s scantily clad pop mavens could ever dream of.

All you have to do is listen to Jessica Simpson’s poorly executed attempt to cover the song for the movie “Dukes of Hazard” to understand that being sexy is more than wearing short shorts. Nancy oozes sex appeal while Jessica oozes raunchiness.

There’s no doubt that Nancy had limited vocal range and she won’t be appearing anywhere in the pantheon of great female vocalists. But on this song – Nancy hit magical pay dirt. It’s a one-hit wonder of astonishing achievement – combining borderline vague sexually charged lyrics with Sinatra’s nice, but somewhat dirty ingénue persona.

Part of the magic came from being backed up by some rather magnificent musicians – who add a sultry sizzle to the song. That’s where the legendary Los Angeles session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew came in. The key was using Carol Kaye on electric bass and Chuck Berghofer on the double bass – giving “Boots” that heavy, driving backbeat that adds to the atmosphere. The tangy guitar and bass that just picks and sails at the end of each refrain doesn’t hurt either. It’s no wonder that the troops in Vietnam fell in love with this number.

What’s not to love? A beautiful blond singing about catching her lover with another woman – so for revenge she breaks his heart in two and starts giving all of her attention to a new (and damn lucky) boy toy.

Few songs hit the pay dirt for playful sexiness as “Boots” – and certainly Nancy Sinatra drive more sex appeal into one pop song than the likes of Brittany, Jessica and Christina have done over there whole careers. Here’s a nod to “Boots” as one of the sexiest songs ever put to vinyl.

An Interview with Indie Pop Princess Linda Strawberry

Guilty Pleasures: Songs You Only Listen to Alone

Strange Fruit: The Making of a Protest Song

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Friday, August 15, 2008
DP Network's Magical Mystery Tour #3

(Culling the very best from the DaRK PaRTY NeTWORK)
  • Congratulations are in order for Duane Swierczynski over at the “Secret Dead Blog.” His fast-paced, ultra-gore thriller “Severance Package” has been optioned out as a movie with Lionsgate Films. He gives out the cool details here. We read the book and found it a blast – perfect for a high-octane action flick. Can’t wait to buy the movie tix (and a big bag of popcorn).
  • SQT over at Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin’ Blog admits she has an Olympic problem. Dark Orpheus at “Orpheus Sing the Guitar Electric” is watching the games because of Dara Torres. Who can blame her for that?
  • J. Robert Lennon writes insightful observations about writing and reading over at Ward Six (a blog you should be reading). This post on Magic-Realist fiction is a beautiful case in point.
  • Sam Houston at “Book Chase” got that fuzzy, honey-warm feeling about Zoe Ferraris’ “Finding Nouf.” He gets it just right with this: “Have you ever run across book, one that you had not known even existed, but knew from the instant you picked it up that you had to read it, and read it soon?” Hell, yes, Sam, it’s why I read!
  • Is there any book review site more addictive than “Bookgasm?” If so please send me the URL.
  • “Flickhead” has always been one of my favorite movie blogs – but then Flick went and quick and wrote a goodbye post and blah, blah, blah. Well, it looks like the bastard is back. Thank Thor!
  • “Lost in the Frame” didn’t like the movie “Enchanted.” I agree wholeheartedly in the description of this overrated pap “as pleasing and colorful as a wad of sticky candy.”
  • Joe Valdez at This Distracted Globe writes reviews about movies that I watch. Sometimes I think he must be looking into my living room window because I just rented “Valley Girl” out of the blue and the crazy nutter actually just posted a review on it. How is that possible? Joe? Joe?

(Would you like to be a hit at parties? Then you should be part of the DaRK PaRTY NeTWORK -- where dreams come true! If you scribble nonsense about culture, literature, books, movies, poetry, music or writing then why not exchange links with us? We don’t bite and we’re relatively clean on non-weekend days. Drop us a note at darkpartyreview(AT)gmail(DOT)com or leave us a comment.)

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Thursday, August 14, 2008
Ode to "Rope"

A Celebration of one of Hitchcock's Best Films

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope” (1948) is a claustrophobic masterpiece – a spiraling descent into the dark recesses of human nature. Hitchcock explores the rough edges of ego and impulse and how they can lead to horrible consequences.

It may be Hitchcock’s greatest movie. Certainly it is his most tightly constricted piece – filled with long takes in near real-time. It’s an amazing achievement of controlled tension.

The only exterior shot in the film comes during the opening credits. The camera rests on an apartment window with the curtains pulled shut. There is a muffled scream and then suddenly we’re inside the apartment where David Kentley is being strangled to death by two of his friends.

The movie setting goes internal. It reflects the direction of the film because we’re about to get inside the minds, motivations, and the personalities of the characters. We’re trapped inside the apartment for good – just like poor, dead David who has been stuffed into a chest.

His murderers are two wealthy, intellectual young men named Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Philip Morgan (Farley Granger). They have killed their friend for one reason – to experience the sensation of murder. They want to pull off the perfect crime – and revel in their superiority.

To make matters even more horrifying, Brandon and Philip are throwing a dinner party and inviting David’s family, his girlfriend (Janet), the girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend, and their former academy teacher Rupert (their mentor who has inspired their crime with his misinterpretations of Nietzchian philosophies of the Superman).

“Nobody commits a murder just for the experiment of murder,” Brandon says as he pops a bottle of champagne. “Nobody except us.”

But the celebration isn’t what Brandon expects because the heavy weight of their crime begins to crush the more sensitive Philip. Brandon is the cold, charming snob – and a classic sociopath. Philip, however, slowly begins to unravel. He gashes his palm after crushing a wine glass in his hands when David’s aunt mistakes another guest for David.

But even the cool and calm Brandon has moments of panic. When David’s father asks where his son is, Brandon stammers: “I thought he was coming with you!”

Rupert (Jimmy Stewart) doesn’t show up until 30 minutes into the film. And once he arrives the film becomes his. Stewart – one of the greatest actors in American history – is amazing in “Rope.” Personally, he didn’t like his performance, but the movie is in essence about the transformation of Rupert – his growth from a bitter cynic into a connected human being. And it works.

Here’s a peek into Rupert. Introduced to Janet (Joan Chandler):

“Ah, Miss Walker,” he says.

“How did you know?” she asks.

Brandon has spoken of you.”

“Did he do me justice?”

“Do you deserve justice?” he asks and then waltzes off with a smirk.

The commanding personality of Rupert begins to melt Brandon. He joins Philip as the weight of his crime is reflected back to him in the presence of his mentor.

Rupert – a naturally suspicious and cunningly observant man – gets his first thread to pull when Brandon – a game player – serves chicken for dinner. Philip no longer eats chicken after having to strangle one at Brandon’s farm. When Brandon tells the story with an evil twinkle in his eye, Philip has an outburst of anger. The scene gives Rupert his first clue and his investigation begins.

He comes up with gems like this: “You’re more than unusually allergic to the truth tonight Philip. That’s the second time you haven’t told it.”

Ultimately the keen Rupert finally discovers the grim secret in the bottom of the trunk. It’s a chilling scene. The movie ends with Rupert throwing open the apartment window and letting the outside cleanse the inside of the apartment with its noise and voices.

And Philip utters the last words of the movie: “They’re coming.” They don't make movies like "Rope" anymore. But they should.

I See Bad Director: M. Night's Fall

Fantastically Bad Cinema: Rambo

How Hollywood Ruined Beowulf

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Thursday, August 07, 2008
5 Kooky, Wonderful Facts About Dickens

I read “Our Mutual Friend” on vacation. Lounging (flopped like a jellyfish actually) in a low-slung chair at the beach, a rather corpulent woman in a polka dot one-piece paused by my side after catching sight of the thick tome on my lap.

“Dickens!” she exclaimed, nose wrinkled.
Pulled back from the foggy banks of the Thames, I simply smiled and bobbed by head.

“Ew!” she said as if she’d stepped in shark poo. “Isn’t Dickens dry?”

“Dry?” I was aghast.

“You know… boring.”

“No,” I said, “quite the contrary. When’s the last time you read him?”

“Oh, high school. I hated him.”

Then she wobbled off into the water. I thought vaguely of dunking her head under the water for a few minutes, but then I decided that I had been possessed by Bradley Headstone (the psychopathic criminal and one of the villains in “Our Mutual Friend”).

Dickens isn’t dry nor is he boring. But don’t listen to me. Listen to Vladimir Nabokov: “If it were possible I would like to devote the 50 minutes of every class meeting to mute meditation, concentration, and admiration of Dickens.”

Or Eudora Welty: “My mother read secondarily for information; she sank as a hedonist into novels. She read Dickens in the spirit in which she would have eloped with him.”

Dickens is a magic carpet ride. A heady rush of imagination that infuses itself to your soul and flies you to places in the human condition that make the unreal very real.

And just for fun – here are some interesting things about the man who gave us Scrooge and the Artful Dodger.
  • At 12, Dickens, father was imprisoned for debt and Charles was forced to work at Warren’s Blacking Warehouse at 30 Hungerford Stairs. For about six shillings a week, young Charles covered pots with paste-blacking applied with oil paper. He did this from morning until night. The episode scarred him for life: “Until old Hungerfordmarket was pulled down, until old Hungerford-stairs were destroyed, and the very nature of the ground changed, I never had the courage to go back to the place where my servitude began. I never saw it. I could not endure to go near it.”
  • Dickens first love was Maria Beadnell. She broke his heart. He later immortalized her as Dora in “David Copperfield” and Flora Finching in “Little Dorrit.”
  • Possibly because of the little girl Nell in the novel “The Old Curiosity Shop,” Dickens developed a reputation for killing children in his books. But Dickens scholar Norrie Epstein (in her wonderful book “The Friendly Dickens”) says that Dickens only killed 14 people under the age of 25 in all his novels. That’s nothing compared to the death count of most video games these days.
  • Dickens traveled to the United States in 1842 with unprecedented fan fair. He was greeted like a king on his first visit to America. But Dickens hated the place. “I never knew what it was to feel disgust and contempt until I traveled in America,” he wrote. The book he produced from his visit, “American Notes,” turned many in the U.S. against him.
  • Dickens carefully disguised sexual dysfunction in his novels. For example, Miss Wade in “Little Dorrit” is probably a lesbian. Uriah Heep in “David Copperfield” seems to harbor masturbatory impulses. Quilp in “The Old Curiosity Shop” appears to be a sexual deviant. And then, of course, there is the likely pedophile in Fagin in “Oliver Twist.”

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