Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Short Cuts

Right. Palate cleansing is in order. Let us speak of things less grave.

I mentioned Don DeLillo earlier. He’s on the short list for the Man Booker prize, along with Salman Rushdie, Amos Oz, and newly outed crime novelist John Banville, aka Benjamin Black.

Speaking of Banville, he has a long interesting talk with Donald E. Westlake over at Newsweek about crime writing and the perils of multiple literary identities.

Speaking of Westlake, I finally got around to watching the newly released Director’s Cut of Payback.(the “Straight Up” edition, which just sounds stupid). But the film is quite good. Much closer to the literary Parker, the cinematic "Porter" in this version smacks all hell out of Deborah Kara Unger’s junkie doll wife and the ever lovely Maria Bello’s hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold is a lot more prickly in this iteration, warning Porter, “Get yourself killed, prick. I ought to tell him you’re coming.” Add to all this a much blacker ending and a great interview with Westlake about the original Parker. Having interviewed Westlake myself covering much of the same ground, it was fantastic recap. Can't beat it with a stick.

On the subject of Director’s cuts, I also spent a long rainy Sunday afternoon with the Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven. It’s an even better deal. The three-and-a-half hour version of Ridley Scott’s blood-soaked passion play about the Crusades is only made richer and more fascinating by the inclusion of a much better explanation for Balian’s rage, a subplot that introduces the flawed heir to the throne of Jerusalem, and a more thorough introduction to Godfrey and his band of doomed knights. Worth every penny.

Speaking of Ridley Scott, the director has optioned a debut novel by screenwriter Tom Rob Smith called Child 44. “Set in Stalinist Russia, storyline revolves around an officer in the secret police who is framed by a colleague for treason. On the run with his emotionally estranged wife, he stumbles upon a series of child killings and launches his own rogue investigation, even though it means risking his own capture.” I’m all over the Russians right now delving into state scare tactics, Beslan and Martin Cruz Smith’s new book for an upcoming column so I’m very intrigued. If anyone knows anything about it, email me the goods.

Speaking of the movies in general, it’s worth a look at’s “30 Strangest Movie Posters of All Time,” many of which feature Mr. Burton Leon Reynolds, Jr. It's just not summer without Burt.

There’s a nice feature on new publishing initiatives within the mystery world over at the Library Journal. Also a list of the top eight mystery blogs, although I have to seriously question the exclusion of The Rap Sheet, one of my personal favorites.

There’s soon to be an RBA International Prize for Crime Writing. 125,000 Euros to the best unpublished manuscript. Uno, dos, tres, vayamos.

John Freeman has the scoop on the London Book Fair. (Note to self: get gig with publication willing to send me back to London for this event on an annual basis. Also win lottery.) Items of interest include short story collections by Roddy Doyle and Irvine Welsh, a new Bachman book by Stephen King, another Benjamin Black book by that scamp Banville, and the surprisingly gifted Steve Martin delivers a biography.

Finally, congratulations to Sarah Weinman, my illustrious predecessor at Bookslut and killer crime writer in her own right. Sarah has gotten herself a truly sweet gig writing about mysteries as an online exclusive at the L.A. Times. Weirdly enough, her first column includes two books I’ve already reviewed: Gruber’s Shakespeare hunt The Book of Air & Shadows, which should soon be appearing at the Rocky Mountain News, and The Blue Zone by Patterson ghostwriter Andrew Gross, which appears elsewhere.

And I'm spent. Further bulletins, as they say, as events warrant.

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