Monday, October 3, 2011

Movies, Books, and More

August was Night of the Stars month on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and mid-month they featured Joanne Woodward, wife of Paul Newmann. Although both are deceased I’ve always been a fan of both and took the time to watch The Drowning Pool. This was a follow-up to Harper, with Newmann in the lead role. And both are based on the Lew Archer novels by Ross Macdonald. TCM explained Newmann wanted to keep the "H" theme going given his success in The Hustler and Hud.

Drowning Pool, released in 1976, was possibly the first film to include the annoying buzzing sound when your seat belt is not engaged. Harper was able to do what everyone at the time wished they could do, make it go away without buckling up. Since I had never read the novel it seemed appropriate to see how Hollywood changed the original 1950 book.

Besides altering Archer’s name they moved the location to New Orleans, away from Quinto in the Nopal Valley. Like Archer’s home base of Santa Teresa, theses locations cannot be found on any map of California. The film also included a previous romanatic relationship between the detective and the client, missing from the novel. But there is something in the book the movie will never capture, and that is Macdonald’s style, like his introduction of the client.

If you didn’t look at her face she was less than thirty, quick-bodied and slim as a girl. Her clothing drew attention to the fact: a tailored sharkskin suit and high heels that tensed her nylon-shadowed calves. But there was a pull of worry around her eyes and drawing at her mouth. The eyes were deep blue, with a sort of double vision. They saw you clearly, took you in completely, and at the same time looked beyond you. They had years to look back on, and more things to see in the years than a girl’s eyes had. About thirty-five, I thought, and still in the running.

Or a personal recollection.

…For the nephew of a lord he was very obliging. I myself was the nephew of my late Uncle Jake, who once went fifteen rounds with Gunboat Smith, to no decision.

I tried to remember what my Uncle Jake looked like. I could remember the smell of him, compounded of bay rum, hair oil, strong clean masculine sweat and good tobacco, and the taste of the dark chocolate cigarettes he brought me the day my father took me to San Francisco for the first time; but I couldn’t remember his face. My mother never kept his pictures, because she was ashamed to have a professional fighter in the family.

And lastly, the proprietor of a restaurant and lounge.

Dennis’s Hunt Club was dim and chilly and crowded. Indirect lights shone with discretion on polished brass and wood, on polished plates and highly polished faces. The photographs that lined the paneled walls were signed by all the big names and the names that had once been big. Dennis himself was near the door, a gray-haired man wearing undertaker’s clothes, clown’s nose, financier’s mouth. He was talking with an air of elegant condescension to one of the names that had once been big. The fading name glanced at me from under his fine plucked eyebrows. No competition. He registered relief and condescension.

MacDonald is known for having introduced psychology to the hard-boiled detective novel. But his descriptions, observations, and recollections grab you by the collar and make you see and feel what he’s looking at. That is what keeps me turning the pages.

There are more than 20 Archer novels. The early works are not as polished as Drowning Pool, and the later books have a repetitive feel to them. But on a lightning-filled night when the power goes out I’m only too happy to light the oil lamp, or the battery powered reading light, and entered the world of Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer.

*********A few words from me.

Hey, guest blogger, Steve, was in town last week and stopped for a visit. He is a neat guy and I wish you all could meet him. OOPS. I guess I forgot to take a current picture. Looks like the mystery of his true identity will linger longer.

The Minneapolis Trade show was uneventful...unless you count my falling into a ditch outside the Guthrie Theatre. I'm not sure how much of that humiliating experience I want to commit to cyberspace, but let me add that the words "alien abduction" come into play.

I have meant to take back my ugliness concerning Cormac McCarthy's The Road. No, I didn't like the story one little bit. But, the writing, the intensity, and the provocative issues will stick with me, and I will be an advocate for this book in the future.

Not much else happening today. Matt and I are attempting the big fall store jumble...moving shelves and generally assessing what we have and what we need. Of cours, Matt has volunteered to move things while I direct traffic. I have already warned him that by the end of the day, he could be shoving all shelves to their original spots, and may be plotting retaliation schemes. We will see.

See you next week.