::Literate Blather::
Friday, February 27, 2009
5 Questions About: Jason Pinter

An Interview with Jason Pinter, Author of the Henry Parker Novels

(Jason Pinter is one of those smart guy authors. You know the type: intelligent, has an IQ, has opinions and isn’t actually afraid to discuss them. It is hard to believe how rare that is these days, especially with the publishing world in such flux. Most authors are terrified to talk about what’s happening in their industry and to offer a point of view. But that’s just what Jason does. It’s a bonus that he also writes riveting mystery novels featuring journalist Henry Parker.)

DaRK PaRTY: You've been writing about Henry Parker through a series of three books now. Who is Henry Parker? Can you give us a composite?

Jason: Henry Parker is an ambitious young journalist in New York City. While trying to help clean the stain left on the industry by other, young publicity-hungry reporters, Henry, through his tenacity and remarkable ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong (or is it right?) time, has managed to break several major stories, and in the process become somewhat of a celebrity himself.
Despite this, he stays grounded, trying to navigate the sordid underbelly of New York while maintaining a relationship with his girlfriend Amanda, who has saved his life both figuratively and literally.

DP: What is it about the mystery genre that so attracts you?

Jason: I think mysteries tend to be as much about time and place as any sort of writing, and most crimes written about in genre novels tend to be emblematic of what is going on in society at that time. It also allows for writers to push their characters to their limits: from the depths of despair to the heights of victory, the best mystery novels can work on a grand scale while keeping the human emotions very real.

DP: On your blog "The Man in Black," you've been exploring the problem
s of the publishing industry. Is book publishing broken? How?

Jason: I don't know that publishing is 'broken' per se, but I think like a lot of industries these days it had built up some bad habits that are now being cleansed. Unfortunately a lot of people have lost their jobs, many of whom I knew personally, and it is sad to see so many people who were passionate about books now out of the industry.

I do think publishing needs to do a better job of embracing technology, getting ahead of the curve rather than being forced to constantly play catch up. Because marketing and publicity dollars are limited, authors have become incredibly adept at maximizing their exposure while using as little capital as possible. Publishers could learn a lot from authors in that regard, especially when it comes to outside-the-box thinking rather than traditional "print galleys, buy one or two expensive ads, hope for the best" campaigns.

DP: What are some of the solutions to fixing book publishing?

Jason: Man, that's a question I'm not sure I'm totally qualified to answer, but I don't think publishing is 'broken'. I think devices like the Kindle can hopefully expand reading to newer, more technologically adept audiences, but I do think e-books will have trouble replacing printed books the way digital music seems to be replacing CDs. Music is an art that is just better formatted for digital consumption, and can be segmentedin the form of individual tracks the way books cannot.

Personally, I would love to see authors and publishers do a better job of luring younger readers in, as they're really the future of the business.

DP: Regular DaRK PaRTY contributor, Crime Writer Dave Zeltserman, thinks self-publishing is a form of literary suicide. What are your thoughts on the explosion of self-published eBooks?

Jason: Self publishing, to me, is always the last resort. If you want a career as an author, you're far better off honing your craft and suffering through one or two unpublished manuscripts in order to find the right one that can sell (I know I did, and so did most professional authors).

If you're simply looking for a printed book that you can give to friends and family as a memento, self-publishing is probably the way to go. But if you're looking for an actual career, if you're looking to perhaps make a living or even make any sort of income and have any real distribution, you're better off simply working and writing until you succeed. Self-publishing is easy. My three-month-old cousin can technically self publish. Mastering the craft of writing is hard, and unfortunately a lot of people choose that route.

Bonus Question: The fourth Henry Parker novel "The Fury" is coming in the spring. Can you give us a sneak peek?

Jason: Absolutely. Through three books Henry Parker has uncovered some of the greatest stories never told, but in “The Fury” (in stores October 2009) he uncovers the most devastating secret of all - his own. In “The Fury,” we learn much more about Henry's past, including one massive skeleton in his closet that threatens everything he cares about. Plus, “The Fury” is the first book in a
two-part Parker epic that will conclude with “The Darkness” which will be out in December 2009.

Buy Jason's books at Amazon.com

5 Questions About: Crime Noir (with Scott Phillips)

Deeply, Disappointing Dexter

Robert B. Parker Should Kill Spenser

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009
12 Signs That You Might Be A Banker

1. Can no longer afford the luxury of providing free lollipops to customers.

2. Your wife has started making snide remarks behind your back and calls you a “Moneylender.”

3. Pedophile priests have higher approval ratings.

4. Mistakenly thought the federal stimulus package was a personal bonus.

5. You don’t even trust yourself anymore.

6. Hoarding is your new business strategy.

7. Financial crisis? Looks like we need a weeklong brainstorming session in Maui.

8. You rolled out the predictable scapegoat for the financial collapse: poor people.

9. “Loan” is the new four-letter word.

10. Ceased and desisted on allowances to your children.

11. Wish you voted for the Republicans (oh, wait, you did).

12. Your new motto: Fuck Main Street.

12 Signs That You Might Be A Literary Agent

12 Signs That You Might Have Been Laid-Off

12 Signs That You Might Be Edgar Allan Poe

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Monday, February 23, 2009
The 9 Worst Movies to Win Oscars

Sometimes the Academy Awards Give the Prize to the Wrong Films

Time will tell if "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) deserves to be added to our list (although we were happy that it won). Here is the DaRK PaRTY list of unworthy winners of the distinction of Best Motion Picture.


Year: 1997

Director: James Cameron

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Bill Paxton and Gloria Stuart

Plot: A free spirited, poverty stricken lad stows away on the Titanic and falls in love with a wealthy teenager promised to a powerful (and utterly evil) industrialist.

Why It Shouldn’t Have Won: “Titanic” at its essence is a gaudy melodrama disguised by its all-star cast and $200 million special effects extrava
ganza. But the biggest flaw in the film is the fact that 1990s sensibilities are transported back to 1912 – as if the doomed passenger ship fell into a time warp before being sunk by an iceberg. Kate Winslet is a liberated woman – at a time when there weren’t any (she even flips another character the bird). Then there’s the romance between Winslet and DeCaprio that is so corny that it could be the main ingredient in a cornbread recipe.

The Oscar Competition: “L.A. Confidential,” “As Good As It Gets,” “Good Will Hunting,” “The Full Monty”

Film That Should Have Won: “L.A. Confidential.”

Forrest Gump

Year: 1994

Rober Zemeckis

Tom Hanks, Robin Wright Penn, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson and Sally Field

Plot: A dim-witted, Southern boy grows up in the latter half of the 20th century and is able to overcome his feebleness to become a Vietnam war hero and a successful shrimp fisherman – while participating in many historical events..

Why It Shouldn’t Have Won:
These days it’s hard not to think about Robert Downey Jr.’s rant in “Tropic Thunder” (2008) about actors going “retard” to win an Oscar and not consider Tom Hank’s performance in “Forrest Gump.” Hanks plays Forrest as a slack-jawed moron with a heart of gold. His gravelly, clogged-nasal passages monotones may be the most irritating performance ever to win an
Academy Award. The movie is pedestrian at best, but its real crime was snatching the best picture award from “Pulp Fiction,” a movie that continues to withstand the test of time and remains one of the most influential in the last three decades.

The Oscar Competition:
“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Pulp Fiction,”
“Quiz Show,” “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Film That Should Have Won:
“Pulp Fiction.”


Year: 2000

Ridley Scott

Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed,
Djimon Housou, Derek Jacobi and Richard Harris.

A Roman general in line to replace the ailing Emperor Marcus Aure
lius is betrayed by the emperor’s son, Commodus. The general’s family is murdered and escapes execution, but only to be captured by slave traders. He becomes a gladiator and uses his battle skills to catapult himself to fame and to position himself as the new emperor of Rome.

Why It Shouldn’t Have Won:
“Joey, do you like gladiator movies?” Captain Oveur asks the little boy in “Airplane” (1980). Clearly, the answer should h
ave been no. The artistic appeal of “Gladiator” remains a mystery – as its nothing more than a clichéd action adventure set in ancient Rome. It’s a depressing, cynical movie that has no heart – and no color (it looks as if it were filmed through dirty cotton). Joaquin Phoenix plays the nasty, cowardly Commodus like a petulant child channeling Nathan Lane numbed down on painkillers. It’s a painful experience to watch the overacting Russell in a series of pontificating speeches about fairness, justice, and blah, blah, blah.

The Oscar Competition:
“Chocolat,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Erin Brockovich” and “Traffic.”

Film That Should Have Won:
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Dances with Wolves


Kevin Costner

Starring: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Tantoo Cardinal and Jimmy Herman

A burned-out Union soldier about to have his leg amputated tries to commit suicide, but instead ends up a hero. A general’s doctor saves his leg and the officer, John J. Dunbar, is transferred to the western wilderness. He meets a tribe of Sioux and drops out of white man’s society.

Why It Shouldn’t Have Won:
“Dances With Wolves” is like a wine
you fell in love with at a trendy restaurant, bought a bottle of it, and then a couple of years later you pop it open it has turned to vinegar. And, of course, it surprises you. But try watching “Dances With Wolves” again and you’ll find that it’s heavy-handed and very preachy. It also treats its Native American subjects as children rather than a race of adults. And, of course, the white men are portrayed as despicable monsters. It’s all too simplified, black-and-white and as a result, the movie suffers for it.

The Oscar Competition:
“Awakenings,” “Ghost,” “The Godfather, Part III,” “Goodfellas.”

Film That Should Have Won:

Rain Man

Year: 1988

Barry Levinson

Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise and Valeria Golino

A young car dealer in need of money when he finds out his estranged father has died. Heading home to settle the estate, he discovers that he
has an older brother who is an autistic savant and been institutionalized for most his life. In order to get more money out the estate, dealer kidnaps his brother and they travel together across country – bonding.

Why It Shouldn’t Have Won:
It’s difficult not to like “Rain Man.” But here is another actor (Dustin Hoffman) “going retard” to earn a best actor award.
Hoffman manages to avoid the syrupy performance that plagued Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump,” but the problem with “Rain Man” his character never transcend beyond Dustin Hoffman playing an autistic guy. In the end, “Rain Man” isn’t a bad movie – it just isn’t Oscar caliber and was only the third best movie nominated in 1988.

The Oscar Competition:
“The Accidental Tourist,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Mississippi Burning, “Working Girl.”

Film That Should Have Won: “Dangerous Liaisons.”


Year: 1968

Director: Carol Reed
Starring: Ron Moody, Shani Wallis, Oliver Reed, Harry Secombe, Mark Lester, Jack Wild and Hugh Griffith.

An adaptation of the Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist.” An orphan escapes a work school to become a pickpocket under the control of Fagin and Bill Sikes. A kindly and wealthy family later adopts him.

Why It Shouldn’t Have Won:
Amazingly, 1968 gave us “The Heart is a L
onely Hunter” and “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and yet neither of these films were even nominated. Instead, we get a musical of one of Charles Dickens’ most damning novels of the British welfare system and class structure. One can only imagine how Dickens would have reacted to a group of destitute boys singing “Food Glorious Food” while dancing on streets of slop.
The Oscar Competition: “Funny Girl,” “The Lion in Winter,” “Rachel, Rachel,” “Romeo and Juliet.”

Film That Should Have Won: “The Lion in Winter.”

The Greatest Show on Earth

Year: 1952

Director: Cecil B. DeMille

Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charlton Heston, Dorothy Lamour, Gloria Grahhame, Jimmy Stewart and Henry Wilcoxon,

Plot: A struggling circus hires the Great Sebastien to
pump some life into the show. His arrival displaces Holly from her spot on the trapeze and the two enter into a dangerous competition against each other while fighting off romantic entanglements outside of the Big Top.

Why It Shouldn’t Have Won:
This may be the worst picture to ever bring home the Oscar and in light of the superior competition (notably “High Noon” and “The Quiet Man”) one can only wonder if uber-Hollywood power broker Cecil B. DeMille called in some markers. Vapid, big budget movie making at its tacky worst with a only a flimsy plot and endless shot of real circus performers and kids reacting to it.
The Oscar Competition: “High Noon,” “Ivanhoe,” “Moulin Rouge,” “The Quiet Man.”

Film That Should Have Won:
“High Noon.”

How Green Was My Valley


John Ford

Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp
and Roddy McDowall.

The trials of ordinary people in a Welsh coal mining town.

Why It Shouldn’t Have Won:
An overly sentimental and romanticized pandering of the class that won the Academy Award because the United States was in the midst of World War II. The coal miners actually march home with picks on their shoulders singing loudly and happily as they exit the mines. The story is supposed to expose the harsh working conditions, but the movie’s kid-glove treatment of the miners dooms it.

The Oscar Competition:
“Blossoms in the Dust,” “Citizen Kane,” “Here Comes Mr. Jordan,” “Hold Back the Dawn,” “The Little Foxes,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “One Foot in Heaven,” “Sergeant York.”

Film That Should Have Won:
“Citizen Kane.”

Going My Way

Year: 1944

Leo McCarey

Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Frank McHugh, James Brown, Gene Lockhart and Jean Heather.

A singing and dancing priest brings joy and solutions to social problems to his parish.

Why It Shouldn’t Have Won:
Bing Crosby as a priest who will break out into song at any opportunity must have charmed the Academy weary of the bloodshed of World War II. Because there really isn’t another reason for this forgettable movie to even be considered among the best pictures of 1944 or any other year. If you put “Going My Way” in a cup of coffee, you’d return it for being too sweet. It was up against three films that were far superior – especially in hindsight.

The Oscar Competition:
“Double Indemnity,” “Gaslight,” “Since You Went Away,” “Wilson.”

Film That Should Have Won: “Double Indemnity.”

Did we miss one? Tell us which movies you think are the worst to win an Oscar.

Fantastically Bad Cinema: X-Files: I Want to Believe

Thanksgiving Movies Rejected by Hollywood

7 Fight Scenes That Flow Like Poetry

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Friday, February 20, 2009
Book Review: Narrow Miss for "Above the Law"

Here’s the question: Is there anything Tim Green can’t do?

He was a professional football player (first round draft pick for the Atlanta Falcons). After football, he was a football commentator for FOX Sports. He graduated from law school and became a lawyer. And now he’s a bestselling author.

Makes you want to smack the guy – except he’d probably kick your ass.

On Monday, Green’s latest suspense novel “Above the Law” hits bookstores. It’s a hybrid – a legal drama that becomes a revenge thriller. Neither genre works well in “Above the Law,” yet somehow
Green manages to put together a compelling piece of fiction that's fun to read despite its flaws.

Green returns to the character of attorney Casey Jordan (first introduced in his 2005 legal
thriller “The Letter of the Law”). Jordan now operates a legal clinic for poor women in Texas. She becomes embroiled in helping to prevent a young Mexican mother from being deported after her husband’s accidental slaying.

U.S. Senator Chase, a conservative and staunch anti-immigration advocate, shot the husband during a turkey hunt at the senator’s ranch. But was the shooting an accident – or murder? Is the deportation of the victim’s wife a way to protect the senator?

Jordan, a plucky character with lots of legal smarts, enters into a sly game of legal one-upsmanship with the Senator and law enforcement officials – firmly entrenched in the senator’s camp. This is the best part of the novel. Green does an excellent job showcasing the legal angles and complications in the case.

But just as “Above the Law” starts shaping into what could have been a fascinating legal drama – Green suddenly shifts gears and turns “Above the Law” into an action adventure story – with revenge as the centerpiece. It’s disappointing to watch Jordan – clearly a brilliant lawyer – turn into a middle-aged Nancy Drew.

She’s partnered in this adventure by ex-cop and private eye Jose O’Brien. O’Brien muddles the story because he basically becomes more of a plot device than a well-rounded character. In other words, his actions are dictated by the plot – rather than by his character.

At this point, the story Green falls back on some rather tired stereotypes – especially around the Mexico mother, who has no personality and serves only as a damsel in distress to be saved over and over again by Jordan and O’Brien.

There’s also the clichés of the Mexican gangbanger in the form of the dead husband’s brother (who can take more punishment than the Terminator) and the angry, racist sheriff who takes the law into his own hands.

But it may be the character of the senator who falls furthest away from reality. Instead of creating a nuanced and complicated villain – Green pulls out no stops in making Chase the embodiment of evil – even having him beat to death several puppies.

Yet even though the story becomes bent on revenge, the ending lacks a satisfying red-meat comeuppance for the evil senator. It’s hard not to feel like Green missed an opportunity here.

Yet despite the flaws in the second half of the novel, “Above the Law” manages to be quite entertaining. The writing is breezy and Green sprinkles the book with interesting legal questions and observations about America’s shameful treatment of illegal
immigrants. If you're looking for a solid thriller that reads like a movie - then you won't be disappointed.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Green – and even though it was flawed – I enjoyed it enough that I’ll be returning to Green’s other books. He’s no doubt that he's a good writer and just narrow
ly missed it on this one.

Buy "Above the Law" by Tim Green at Amazon.com

5 Questions About: Ken Bruen

Literature, Inc.

Reading Moby-Dick

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009
5 Questions About: Screaming Blue Messiahs

An Exclusive Interview with Kenny Harris, the drummer from Screaming Blue Messiahs

(DaRK PaRTY isn’t shy to admit that we rock. Seriously. That’s why we were into the Screaming Blue Messiahs back during the alternative 1980s. What’s not to love about a British post punk band that has a song called “Holiday Head”? If you've never had the pleasure of listening to the album "Gun Shy" then you don't know what you're missing. So we did what an
y self-respecting fan boy does – we looked up Kenny Harris, the drummer from Screaming Blue Messiahs, and asked him for an interview. Kenny is a man of few words (damn drummers) – but this is what we managed to yank out of him. We also tried to get a hold of Bill Carter, the lead singer, but apparently he’s a bit of recluse. Hey, Bill! Come on board! We promise not to take you down to the woods and play!)

DaRK PaRTY: Can you give us a brief origin story on Screaming Blue Messiahs? How did you meet and why the name Screaming Blue Messiahs?

Kenny: We first met through an advert in Melody Maker. They were advertising for a drummer for the Small Brothers their band before Motor Boys Motor.

DP: How would you describe the sound of the Screaming Blue Messiahs?

Kenny: Bit of a racket.

DP: You were once David Bowie's most popular band. Did you meet Bowie? Who are some of the other artists who you shared the stage and worked with?

Kenny: We met him (Bowie) briefly. He stuck his head into the dressing room to say hello. Other artists we have played with include Echo & The Bunnymen, The Cramps, The Ramones, The Sugarcubes, The Gun Club etc, etc.

DP: What are your three favorite Screaming Blue Messiah songs and why?

Kenny: I find it hard to name just three but I always had a soft spot for “I Want Up.” It was reasonably paced and it always gave me a chance to get my breath back before the next song.

DP: “I Wanna Be a Flintstone” was your biggest hit, but it also labeled the band as a novelty act. How did that song come about and do you ever regret releasing it?

Kenny: It was supposed to be a sort of updating of “Here Come The Flintstones” from the Motor Boys Motor album. It was made for our own amusement. We didn't think for a minute that it would be a single. That was a record company decision and perhaps with hindsight, not a particularly wise one.

Great Tunes: Jefferson Airplanes "White Rabbit"

Highway to Hell: The Best AC/DC Songs

7 Angry Bands

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Friday, February 13, 2009
What's Up With All the Fat, Naked Guys?

The 9 Worst Guy Naked Scenes of the Last 5 Years

Blame it on Harvey Keitel. In the movie, “Bad Lieutenant” (1992), Keitel played a sociopathic cop with a severe drug problem. In one scene, the high and intoxicated lieutenant staggers around naked and, well, hey, there’s Keitel’s rather wide, hairy body. And his, you know, little jimmy.

Full frontal.

Yeah, we didn’t want to eat our popcorn after that either.

But that opened up the floodgates. Suddenly every actor wanted to show
off his sausage factory on screen. But you can understand why actors like Colin Farrell and Bruce Willis strip down to their birthday suits. I mean at least they’re A-list movie star types.

But Will Ferrell? Who wants to see his naked body?

Does anybody (except maybe this guy)?

So despite the risk of being stricken blind and several trips to the restroom to vomit, DaRK PaRTY has compiled our list of the absolutely wo
rst male nude scenes in cinema history.

This is bad nak
ed at its worst.

Will Ferrell, “Semi-Pro” (2008)

The long, sweeping shot of Ferrell lying on a bench wearing nothing but white tube socks and with a red-white-and-blue basketball covering his love missile is nothing short of disturbing. The lyrics mention something about “swamp sweaty” as the camera features a close-up of the nest of tangled fur covering the meaty portions of his belly (see the video above).

Jason Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Jason Segel spends an awful lot of time naked in this 2008 comedy. Too much time. The scene where he’s sitting on a leather couch (ooh, chaffing!) with Kristen Bell – who should have been given hazard pay – is uncomfortable at best and downright scary at worse. Segel has a strange, hairless body – all thigh and torso. At times you think, “Hmm not bad” and then at other points you’re screaming “MY EYES ARE BURNING!”

Adam Sandler, Don’t Mess With The Zohan (2008)

Sandler plays slap the monkey with his golden banana during a twisted beach scene in Zohan. The movie is about an Israeli spy who wants to be a hairdresser and has an unnatural attraction to banging women over the age of 65 (shudder). The scene has Sandler grilling seafood naked as his butt c
heeks sink toward the sand. Then he gives his hips a wild shake and you can hear his rootball banging against his belly. It’s more frightening than any scene from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

M.C. Ga
iney, Sideways (2004)

Remember the scene when Paul Giamatti is sneaking out of Cammi’s house and her enormous naked husband chases him through the neighborhood with his swinging warthog? That poor, round, hairy bastard was M.C. Gainey.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead (2007)

I can understand the pressure Phillip Seymour Hoffman was under. I mean everyone else is naked in the movie. But the others are Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei. Phil? What were you thinking? Because oval, pale guys with weight problems and blotchy skin just shouldn’t be naked. Even in the shower.

Tom Hanks, Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

Tom Hanks may have been able to pull off naked 10 years ago. But now? What was he thinking when he did the hot tub scene in “Charlie Wilson’s War”?
We know what we were thinking. Hey, Tom Hanks has man boobies.

Bob Hoskins, Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)

This British comedy (with heart) is about showgirls during World War II. It’s an exploitive mess that would have disappeared quietly and quickly if not for Bob Hoskins disrobing and giving the shocked audience a full frontal shot of his hamburger helper. We wondered if Bob had been in some terrible accident. Ew!

Terry Bradshaw, Failure to Launch (2006)

This may be one of the most bizarre male nude shots of all time – because there is absolutely no need for it. It’s like it was thrown into the movie to give Terry more screen time. The concept is that Terry’s character wants a “nude” room for himself. And he gets it – wandering around and letting us see it all. Wow. We know he’s gone from NFL quarterback to TV chimpanzee. But this was too much.

Seth Rogan, “Zack and Miri Make A Porno” (2008)

Not just Seth Rogan, but with a pirate beard and thick glasses. Talk about a big, white butt with carbuncles. Whoa Nelly!

Hollywood's Most Awkward Nude Scenes

The 12 Best Actresses in Hollywood

Unromantic Movies: 7 Films That Will Help You Survive Valentine's Day

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Thursday, February 12, 2009
Thoughts from the Shadows: The Craziness of Publishing

Commentary from Crime Writer Dave Zeltserman

Recently on Jason Pinter's blog, “The Man in Black,” he had folks offering their thoughts on what problems exist in the publishing industry and what could be done to fix them. Some interesting ideas were tossed around, and while I don't want to kick a dog when it's down—especially a dog I'm dependent on, here's my suggestion: every single person in publishing who was involved in turning down JK Rowling's Harry Potter needs to be fired. Booted out the door. Now!

But I digress.

I want to instead write about a film option I just sold and how it relates to the problems with publishing. The film option sold is for an unpublished book titled “28 Minutes.” I originally wrote this book in 2004, with the title then as “Outsourced.”
The book was about a group of software engineers who were made basically unemployable due to the industry's push to outsourcing (the process of moving American job overseas to places like India). Desperate as they see their middle class lives crumbling apart, they come up with an almost brilliant plan to rob a bank
. Almost brilliant, since things don't quite work out as planned.

In 2005 my literary at that time started shopping the book around and there was initially a lot of interest with editors in New York digging the book, but ultimately none of them could get it through their editorial boards, and the feedback I got from one of the publishing houses was that the board was worried whether outsourcing would still be relevant by the time the book was published (it would've been published in '06 or 07, yeah, right, outsourcing was really about to disappear from the public consciousness by then!).

Early in 2006 a top film agent, Steve Fisher at APA, read the book and decided he was g
oing to get this made into a movie. He started pitching it then, and there was a lot of interest in Hollywood, and over the last three years there have been a lot of false starts with different players.

On Tuesday, I signed a contract selling the film option for this unpublished book to Constantin Film Development and Impact Pictures with John Tomko (“Ocean's 11,” “Falling Down”) and Jeremy Bolt (“Resident Evil,” “Death Race”) to produce. Here's the difference between how Hollywood looked at the book and how the publishing industry looked it—Hollywood looked at it as a great story that would make a great movie, and while deals along the way fell apart due to scheduling conflicts, it never changed the excitement that they had for this book. The New York publishing houses, on the other hand, looked for excuses not to publish it. I think in a nutshell that points out what's wrong with the New York publishing industry.

So where does this book stand now? Well, last year I stripped out the outsourcing angle, making the software engineers more as people out of work because of time and technology passing them by, and have a deal in place for the UK rights and am now working out the US rights. Can the New York houses still find an excuse not to publish it? I doubt it, but they can be a creative bunch, so we'll see.

(Dave Zeltserman lives and writes in Massachusetts. His crime novel “Small Crimes” was called a “thing of beauty” by the Washington Post and National Public Radio named “Small Crimes” one of its five best mystery novels of 2008. Dave also publishes his own blog, Small Crimes. He publishes the column Thoughts from the Shadows for DaRK PaRTY.)

Dave Zeltserman at Amazon.com

Thoughts from the Shadows: Seismic Changes in the Publishing World

12 Signs You Might Be a Literary Agent

An Interview with Crime Noir Writer Scott Phillips ("The Ice Harvest")

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009
How to Make a Damn Good Horror Movie

5 Tips for Scaring the Crap out of People

I saw “Friday the 13th” (1980) for the first time at an isolated drive-in theater in Maine.

One of those weed-infested lots clear-cut from a pine and hemlock forest. There was nothing but deep woods on three sides. The fourth side was the entrance – a rutted dirt road that led to a two-lane blacktop highway.

Needless to say, the movie scared the shit out of me.

When people started to die, I locked the car doors. When Jason popped out the lake at the end? I didn’t want to drive back to our cottage – on the damn lake.
But my terror at “Friday the 13th” had more to do with setting than the actual quality of the movie. The film isn’t that good – in fact it nearly dips into “suck” range. It will be interesting to see if the remake will be better.

Horror continues to be a hot commodity in Hollywood. Yet they kee
p making gag-inducing horror movies. As a horror movie aficionado, DaRK PaRTY cringes at movies like “Saw IV” (2006) and “Hostel” (2005) - can someone please stop Eli Roth from making anymore movies?

So in our quest to help (we’re nothing if not educational), we present our five crucial components to making great horror movies.

Build Suspense

The reason why “Psycho” (1960) is so damn scary was Alfred Hitchcock’s ability to prolong the suspense – building on the creepiness and the sense of foreboding throughout the film. Everything leads to the shower scene and then the ending. By the time the film in half over, the viewer is already tense and nervous. We are pudding in Hitchcock’s hands.

Modern filmmakers are obsessed with getting to the payoff, but it’s the journey that’s really scary. Build up to it. Foreshadow. Tease. Take the viewers down dead ends. Backtrack. Keep the mystery and the suspense going. That’s artistry.

Ease Up on the Gore

This equation doesn’t add up anymore: G
ore + Blood = Scary. People forget that there’s little blood in the original “Halloween” (1979). But don’t misunderstand me. “Halloween” is violent, really violent. The relentless and unmerciful murders by Michael Myers instill terror. But Director John Carpenter leaves the gore to our imaginations – where it is probably worse.

Gore is a crutch – a lazy or uncreative directors’ attempt to make his movie memorable. I’m not a fan of the torture chic now popular in many horror movies. Believe it or not, I don’t want to watch a man have his leg twisted off or cannibals devour a victim whole. Scare me – don’t make me throw up my popcorn.

Character, Not Cliché

An underrated horror gem is “Wolf Creek” (2005). The movie is so
effective because it spends the first half as a travel movie – establishing the characters, spending time with them to get the viewers to understand and sympathize with them. So when the movie suddenly shifts into a full-throttle horror fest, we feel for the victims because we care for them.

Another great recent horror movie is “The Descent” (2006). The movie is about a group of women who go spelunking in an ancient cave and things go horrible wrong. The movie does an excellent job of creating a compelling back-story and gives each of the characters a history with each other. Here is a group of women enmeshed emotionally. The characters feel genuine – not a stereotype in the lot. Don’t you wish you could say that about every horror movie?

Add Some Mystery

The unknown is frightening. There’s a trend these days to S-P-E-L-L it all out. The reason Joh
n Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing” (1986) is so scary is because the audience is never quite sure who has been infected by the creature. Is him? Or maybe him! That element of the unknown – that mystery – adds to the terror. The movie even ends with a question mark. Are the two survivors infected? Or just one? Or maybe both? It’s up to us to decide.

The same hold true for "The Exorcist" (1973), probably the most frightening film ever made. What would the film be like without the aura of mystery about the church and exorcisms in general? There is so much darkness that the film feels like its been plunged i
nto a deep, dark pit of the unknown.

Creative, Not Formula

The movie “
Dog Soldiers” (2002) is so effective as a horror movie because it gives viewers a completely fresh look at werewolves. Director Neil Marshall provides us with a type of werewolf with an original look and feel. It’s as if he’s reinvented the genre.

Don’t you wish we could say that about the plethora of vampire movies in theaters these days? They all feel stale – retreads. Good horror movies give us twists and turns and make us think twice about the genre.

That’s why “The Ring” (2002) and “The Others” (2001) worked so well. Both films bended the genre of ghost movies and gave us two films that were original, creative and scary.
This is why slasher flicks often fail – it’s the tired, old story of the serial killer. Was anyone scared by “My Bloody Valentine” (1981) or by “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (1997)? I wasn’t. They were formula films. But “Seven” (1995) turned serial killer films on its head and it was extremely frightening. Being creative and original produces that effect.

5 Questions About: Horror Movies

10 End of the World Movies Worth Watching

When Children's Books Go Bad

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Friday, February 06, 2009
The Case of the Strangled Sister

Completely True, But Utterly
Exaggerated Crime Stories

(Call me Carter. Everyone does, even m
y ex-wife’s lawyer who keeps calling to complain about my tardiness on alimony payments. Hey, I’m an old bastard now and I’ve got the gray hairs and faulty memory to prove it. I was a crime reporter back in the wild 1980s when cocaine flowed and the crime rate burst off the charts. My newspaper stories about drugs, murder, suicide, rape, and robbery chronicled these crazy times in the old, decaying mill cities of Central Massachusetts – the state’s forgotten and generally disliked middle. This is the place where I empty the pain and agony locked inside my old reporter’s notebooks.)*

They found the murdered girl under a thin covering of leaves in the A____ State Park. Her skin was a pallid shade of yellow, like a maple leaf bleached by the waning autumn sunshine. In fact, when I stared down at her dead eyes, the sunlight glittered off a sliver button on her corduroy jacket.

“Damn shame,” the cop next to me said.

Who was I to argue? I turned my back and lit a smoke. Made me feel vaguely human.

Someone had strangled her with a bike chain, so violently that they nearly decapitated her. She had been a pretty sort, but the type to wear too much eye shadow. She was 16.

Clearly, the murderer hadn’t expended much effort trying to hide her corpse. Either he was arrogant or stupid. Turns out he was both.

Meanwhile, I had a job to do. When kids get killed, my readers wanted to know why, and it was my job to tell them.

So I went to find her mother.

She answered the door to her ranch house in a bathrobe. She was plump, but you could tell she had been a beauty in her youth before hard living and too many cigarettes wrecked her. She plopped down on a couch covered in cat hair without much modesty. She cried, but spilled her guts.

Her murdered daughter lived in a rented house on the other side of town with her big sister and a group of older teenagers. That was my next stop. There was a broken toilet in the front yard. The grass, patches of it amongst the dirt, hadn’t been mowed since May.

The killer answered the door, but I didn’t know it at the time. Deep acne scars on his cheeks and chin. Long, unwashed hair. The dull, vacant eyes of someone who smokes marijuana everyday. His breath was sour through the screen door.

When I asked about the girl, his pupils widened. He shut the door without a word. I knew he was hiding something and told the cops about it.

Eventually I found some friends and wrote the story for the next day’s edition. Front page, of course. Everyone loves a story about murdered children.

It didn’t take the cops long to arrest the boy – and to squeeze the real story out of him. He was the sister’s boyfriend and had been caught having sex with the victim. So the lovely, deranged sister ordered him to kill her. For love, of course. A twisted version of “Romeo & Juliet.”

They plotted together. He lured the victim into his room and had sex with her again while the sister watched from the closet. Then out came the bike chain. The sister helped strangle her. They stuffed her in a plastic garbage can and lugged her out to his pick-up truck.

The victim stirred, made a gurgling noise. So they strangled her again. Loaded her into the back of the truck and drove out to the state park, where they unceremoniously dumped her.

It all came out in the trial – which I sat through on the stiff wooden benches. The sadness and desperation left me exhausted and after filing my stories, I’d drink alone in whatever bar was closest. They both went to prison for a long time – as adults.

The mother called me a few times. Wanted me to visit. I never did. The story tired me out. And then I forgot all about it. That’s what happens with these sordid dramas. The publicity fades and all that’s left is a dead girl and the damaged people she left behind.

But at least there’s always the next one.

*Names, dates, and locations have been changed to protect the innocence and the guilty.

The Case of the Flying Mechanic

The Twilight of Reading

Comics for Literature Professors

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Thursday, February 05, 2009
Cool 80s Tunes That Still Rock

A Dozen Alternative and New Wave Songs With Lasting Power

“New Year’s Day”

“New Year’s Day” is the most underrated U2 hit – despite the fact it was th
e band’s first breakout song. Bono originally wrote the lyrics as a love song to his wife, but then he rewrote it about the Polish solidarity movement. The bass line really kicks major league butt – and the Edge even experiments with keyboards.

“I Ran (So Far Away)”
A Flock of Seagulls

A Flock of Seagulls redefined “hair” band, as in bad hair – with lots of points, barbs, and swoops. Jay-sus! But the song “I Ran (So Far Away)” (see video above) still holds up amazingly well. The tune is much more complex and layered than you’d expect from a New Wave pop song. When it was released in 1982, the MTV video featured the band in a room full of mirrors and aluminum foil – which was considered edgy at the time – being stalked by babes painted different colors.

“A Promise”
Echo & the Bunnymen

The “Echo” in the band was the sound machine. “A Promise” is classic post-punk tune released in 1981 and really established Echo & the Bunnymen as a band to watch. The song has a fantastic backbeat with a mysterious, almost mystical lyric treatment. Who knew a bunch of rabbits could play music so well?

“A Night Like This”

The Romantics

The Romantics may have suffered from having terrible branding. They were a hard-rocking Detroit alternative band, yet because they formed on Valentine’s Day, they decided to call themselves “The Romantics.” Bad move. They are generally remembered for the hit “What I Like About You,” but the band’s best song is definitely 1980’s “A Night Like This.” It simply rocks.

“Save It For Later”

The English Beat

The best of the British ska bands, The Beat, really outdid themselves with the 1982 “Save It For Later,” which admittedly isn’t really a ska song, but a boppy New Wave pop tune (see video below). An instrumental version of the song appeared in the teen movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in 1986.

“Too Far Gone”

The Feelies

As we’ve noted before on DaRK PaRTY – the Feelies should have been huge. You want guitar work? Do you punk-infused alternative music that steamrolls over speed bumps? Then look no further than the underrated “Too Far Gone” from 1988. Smash mouth pop at its finest.

“Birth, School, Work, Death”
The Godfathers

The Godfathers had bad timing. They were an alternative rock band in London before, you know, there was really such a thing. So they never hit the big time. But you won’t get a more cynical, anthem like song than “Birth, School, Work, Death,” which takes on more meaning these days than it did in 1988.


Lone Justice

Lone Justice was a flash in the pan 80s act that played country infused New Wave. The 1986 song “Shelter” is a love song – but sung so passionately by lead singer Maria McKee that it just becomes infectious (as well as highly emotive).

“Driver 8”


It’s really no surprise that R.E.M.’s music holds up three two decades later. After all, they were one of the band’s (along with U2) that shaped music in 1980s. But “Driver 8” from 1985 deserves special recognition as one of the band’s most rocking tunes. The song is about a train. Go figure.

“Blood and Roses”

The Smithereens

Another band that managed to avoid mainstream success. Yet the band was influential. Supposedly the 1986 album “Especially For You” was a fa
vorite of Kurt Cobain and the best song on that album is the funk-infused “Blood and Roses.”

“Pale Shelter”

Tears for Fears

Tears for Fears is a band that people like to mock these days, but the
y made some good music. “Pale Shelter” is a love song – between children and their parents. How’s that for original? The song was released in 1986, but didn’t become a hit until the band remixed it a few years later. It’s the remix that makes the song work.

“Fisherman’s Blues”

The Waterboys

This is, by far, the Waterboys’ best song – a mix of traditional Irish music, country, and rock. It’s a beautiful song and dedicated on the 1988 album of the same name to the Greenpeace.

How about you? Any 1980s songs that still work for you and you’d like to recommend? We’re all ears.

12 Terrible Songs

5 Questions About: The Feelies (Interview with lead singer Glenn Mercer)

5 Underrated Bands from the 1980s

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Essay: Have Adults Ruined Childhood?

No More Sledding, Bike Helmets, and the End of Outdoor Play Spells Bad News for Children

There is a movement afoot in Massachusetts and other snowy states to ban sledding. A rash of sledding injuries in the state and the death of two girls in upstate New York have many municipalities in the Bay State on the verge of banning sledding at several locations.

“There are no brakes on a sled,” a state representative in Massachusetts told the Boston Globe.

No way! No brakes? But isn’t that what make sledding fun? It’s the thrill of hurtling down a hill and
possibly taking a spill.

Welcome to the 21st century, kids, where your parents are in the process of ruining your childhood. Sledding bans are already in place in parts of New York, Missouri and Ohio.

Blame the Baby Boomers. Blame our litigation happy society. Blame the media.

We are living in a society where we want to regulate any danger –
perceived or real – out of our children’s lives. It’s not possible, of course, but we’re trying anyway. As a result – in the name of “safety” we’re ruining the concept of free play. We’re taking the impulsiveness, the liberty, and the natural reckless out of childhood.

Let’s look at further evidence.

Bicycle Helmet Laws

Children in 37 states are now required by law to wear helmets when they ride their bicycles, including, I might add, tricycles. Bicycle helmet laws were first enacted in California back in 1987.

Advocates have pushed for the laws because they say helmets save lives. But only 700 people where killed in bicycle accid
ents in 2007 (up from the 662 killed in 2002 when there were fewer bike helmet laws).

This is a micros
copic percentage considering that it is estimated that there are between 73 and 83 million bike riders in the U.S. What is your chance of dying in a bike accident on any given day? Less than 0.0009 percent.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which support bike helmet laws, is fond of reporting facts like this: “More than 47,000 bicyclists have died in traffic crashes in the United States since 1932.” But there’s no indication how many would have survived if they had been wearing helmets.

The result of these laws, of course, is the loss of childhood impulse to jump on your bike and ride.

The Demise of Outdoor Play

When was the last time you were forced to slow your car on a suburban street because a large group of boys were playing street hockey or touch football? I know the answer for me.


The death of independent play many be the worse gift ever bestowed on a generation by their parents. But adults have killed the concept of free, outdoor play. Once again under the guise of “safety,” parents have slowly eroded one of the best parts of being a child. This despite ample evidence that independent outdoor play lowers stress and incidents of hyperactivity.

But with the fear of serial killers and pedophiles lurking behind every fence post and more families with dual working parents, kids are no longer allowed outside alone. They are corralled into organized sports – run by adults – or spend their afternoons watching TV or playing computer games.

And now for a reality check. Do you know how many children in 2007 were kidnapped by a stranger and killed, tortured or injured? 58. There are more than 74 million kids under the age of 18 in the United States. So what is the chance of any one child being abducted off the street and murdered by a sociopathic pedophile? 0.000078 percent.

Do you think we might be overreacting? There is a four times more likelihood that your child will be electrocuted to death. Is it any wonder that childhood obesity is an epidemic or that the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder is at an all-time high? It’s gotten so bad that in 2007 California issued an Outdoor Bill of Rights for Children – 10 activities a child should experience outside before the age of 14.

What are your thoughts? Do you think adults have killed childhood?

The Twilight of Reading

Addicted to Convenience

Misplaced Passion: The Day After

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