Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Look Back at Robert B. Parker

Another new site on the block is CriminalElement.  There's a lot of great stuff on there from various people in the crime fiction web world.  Like this piece on Robert B. Parker from The Night Editor's Jake Hinkson.

I haven't read much Parker, so a couple of Jake's recommendations ended up on my to-be-read list.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ross Macdonald's Landscape

Messing around on the 'net the other day, I stumbled across the site for the LA Times Review of Books. There's some nice stuff on there, like "Soft-Voiced Big Men" by Megan Abbott, which is about Robert Crais's most recent book centered on Joe Pike.

The one I really liked was the entry "Ross Macdonald and the Oil Spill". Author Jefferson Hunter talks about how Macdonald always used his California setting as part of his stories. Hunter is particularly fond of the moment in Sleeping Beauty (1973), when Archer sees an oil spill from an airplane and describes what he sees:

An offshore oil platform stood up out of its windward end like the metal handle of a dagger that had stabbed the world and made it spill black blood.

Damn. I love me some Ross Macdonald.

I also love the line StephenD quotes from The Ivory Grin:

I looked straight up into its dark blue well, moon-washed and dripping with stars, and wondered what the man at the window was seeing there, or looking for.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Citizen Kane (1941)

Released 70 years ago today - May 1, 1941.

I remain your obedient servant.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Sentence I Like

"Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour."

-The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Second Act

Here's my entry for the Patti Abbott "Scarry Night" flash fiction challenge:

"On Saturday night, we passed a young woman on the street who was talking to her male companion and said, "I really don't mind the scars." A good startup line for a little challenge perhaps. I looked for a picture to go with it but 1) they scarred (make that scared) me too much to post and 2) I felt like the pictures steered the story.

So how about a 800 or so word story that contains that line in it. How about an end date of February 28th? What do you think?"

Hope you enjoy.

Second Act

"I really don't mind the scars."

Fingers on her back. Angry white lesions contrast with smooth, brown skin. Lola reaches for cigarette.

Enrique says, "You are still beautiful. But they make me angry at the maricón who hurt you."

Lola turns, pulls rumpled sheets over her breasts. Bed, warm and comfortable. Perfumed with lilacs and sex. She inhales. Smoke lazily drifts toward the ceiling, wraps itself around the slowly moving fan.

"He's my husband and he loves me. At least he used to."

Enrique propped up on an elbow, looking down at her face. "He should treat you with respect. You are Lola Montez - The Goddess of Cinema! The obsession of a nation."

"I am Lola Montez - the star who hasn't had a hit in five years. The faded beauty whose charm has run out."

"No. It's not true. You must not say such things."

Lola sits up. Face to face with Enrique. "If only I had met you sooner. These last few months have been heaven. I should've known better than to marry a director. They crave power and control. They do not know how to handle women like you do, Enrique."

He leans, kisses her forehead. He takes her cigarette and mashes it in the ashtray. "I would do anything for you, my love. I would walk barefoot across the desert. I would cut off my right hand for you."

Her fingers in his curly black mop of hair. She traces the line of his jaw from earlobe to chin. His eyes black as a moonless night. Lola says, "I believe you would."

Lola leans back. Spinning fan entrances her. Memories flood back, debut at 19, Oscar nomination at 26. Not yet 40 and roles start to dry up. Magazine covers and photo spreads: gone.

Marriage to Phillip Crosby, director of her breakout hit Hot Tamales. She 22, he 45. Shrink said father issues. Her own abandoned her at 6. Lola said love. Love can fade.

Enter Enrique: valet at Bell Air restaurant. Chance encounter one night when his hand brushed hers. Sparks flew. A weekend locked in a hotel room. Repeated for months.

Enrique stares at Lola's beautiful face. "What are you thinking about?"

Lola turns. "You love me, don't you?"


Lola moves closer. "You would do anything for me wouldn't you?"


Very close to Enrique. Lips almost touching. Her breath causing goosebumps on his lips. She whispers, "Kill my husband."

"Yes, my love."

With her left hand, she pulls his head back and kisses him hungrily on the lips. Pushes him down on the bed and climbs on top, letting the sheet fall away. Lola watches Enrique's eyes drink her in.


Lola checks her hair one last time. Never up except for awards ceremonies. She stands and smooths the wrinkles in her gown - v-neck, black, sheer. She picks up her handbag and exits the bedroom.

She hasn't seen Enrique since planning Phillip's murder. Home invasion gone wrong. They came up with the perfect date.

Oscar Night.

Lola at the top of the half-circle staircase that hugged the outer wall of their living room. Straight ahead, a wall of curved glass. LA at dusk. Phillip in the middle of the room, checking his cufflinks. Dashing with tux, salt-and-pepper hair, soulpatch. He hears Lola, turns to watch her walk down the stairs. Her grand entrance.

Lola walks to Phillip. His hand on the small of her back. Kisses her. "You look more beautiful every day."

Lola smiles and looks away, "Thank you."

"The car's waiting out front. Shall we?"

Lola doesn't move. Eyes scanning the room.

"Is something wrong?" said Phillip.

"No. It's just..."

Enrique enters from kitchen. Lola left the back door open. Enrique in ski mask, all black. A .38 in his hand. Lola steps away from Phillip, who stares at Enrique in disbelief.

"What's going..."

Enrique fires twice. Red spots grow on Phillip's white tuxedo shirt like roses. He falls to the ground, dead. Enrique pulls off mask and Lola runs to him. They kiss passionately.

"It is done," says Enrique.

Lola's hand moves from Enrique's shoulder to his gun hand. She wraps her slender fingers around his wrist. Warmth emanates from the gun. "Yes. Just a little longer and we'll be together forever, my love."

"I only wish we could've made him suffer. Make him pay for each one of those scars."

Lola lookes at Phillip's lifeless body. "Phillip didn't do that." She turns to Enrique, "Those are the only thing my father ever gave me."

Enrique's brow furrows. Lola twists his wrist up, fires a shot through Enrique's heart.

Enrique drops to the floor, coughs blood.

Lola kneels. "I loved Phillip, but he was never around. He was always off shooting pictures while I was stuck home alone. Don't they realize that I'm the one with the talent?"

She removes an earring and drops it next to Enrique. Opens her purse and tosses it across the room. "Don't you see? This is the beginning of my comeback. Famed director Phillip Crosby slain in his own home. Beautiful Lola Montez valiantly shoots his attacker. I can play the grieving widow better than anyone. You saw me in Forever, My Love, right?"

Enrique tries to speak, only a bloody gurgle.

Lola takes off her shoe and snaps the heel. "I wish there could have been another way, my dearest Enrique. Just lay still and be quiet. Your role is almost complete. All you have left to do is die."

Author's Note: If you've read my last couple blog posts, you'll see that I had trouble trimming this down to size. For comparison's sake, I could post the last non-Ellroyified draft sometime next week if anyone's interested.

I look forward to reading everyone else's stories.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Need A Drink

I'm still working on my story of the "Scarry Night" flash challenge.  It's seriously kicking my butt.

First draft:  1397 words
Second draft:  1153 words

I channeled my inner James Ellroy and chopped out every third word.

Third draft:  925 words.

I'm afraid I'm going to start cutting bone.  This story can't be told in any fewer words.

At what point do I just throw in the towel?  One more pass and I'm going to post it as is and beg for forgiveness for going over the word count.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Snip Snip

I've talked before about the Patti Abbot & crew flash challenges.  They're always a blast and you get to know some cool writers who also hang around the internet.  The other week, a new challenge was thrown down.  I had an idea, so I jumped in.

It's funny how inspiration works.  I had a good story with interesting characters, but after I wrote the first two sentences (yes, two sentences), everything changed.  The protag's motivation, the relationship with a secondary character, even one character's gender changed.

I finished the first draft this morning, and I dig it.  The only problem is the challenge calls for a story of "800 or so words".  First draft clocks in at just under 1400.

Time to trim the fat.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Touch of Evil

Over on Movie Morlocks today, they have a blog post on Orson Welles's brilliant noir "Touch of Evil".  There's not much there that hasn't been said before, but it's still nice to see the movie get some love.  Go read the article and if you haven't seen the movie, go see it.

"He was some kind of a man.  What does it matter what you say about people?"

(Nota bene:  I have this poster hanging in my living room)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ode to Februrary

The sky's rolled up and peeled away.
A winter chill invades the land;
The well's run dry and chokes the hand.
It seems I've not much to say.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Birnam Wood Comes To Dunsinane

AICN has been running a feature called "Behind the Scenes Pic of the Day" for a while now.  I had to share today's installment because it features Orson Welles.  This is from Welles's version of Macbeth shot in 1948.  I'm not sure, but I would bet that's Jeanette Nolan as Lady Macbeth in the distance.

(click to make bigger)