Monday, June 30, 2008

Gravitas

Enjoy a little film from the other strange side of my freelancing life. I wrote these tributes to aviation legends for one of my publications late last year. I had heard that they had gotten Morgan Freeman to read them for an event but I hadn't actually gotten to hear him read my writing until now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Cool World

What better way to celebrate a sunny Wednesday (it's the day that new comic books hit the shelves, you Philistine) than to pop over to Kirkus and read the new 2008 Graphic Spotlight. For my part, I got to interview some very cool purveyors of the graphic arts including Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy; Max Brooks, who gave us World War Z and the Zombie Survival Guide; historian Todd DePastino, who has curated a terrific new collection of the WWII cartoons of Bill Mauldin; and Takashi Okazaki, the gifted manga artist whose twisted mind launched Afro Samurai. Oh, and Dean Koontz, talking about some bloke named Odd Thomas.

The rest of the special is well worth delving into, too. Other spotlights include interviews with Lynda Barry, Jeffrey Brown, Scott McCloud, Art Spiegelman, Bryan K. Vaughan. And Method Man. Can't forget Method Man, man.

As a little treat before lunch, here's a little bigger look at the cover of The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks.


Death And All His Friends

I should probably be ashamed of myself for cribbing a title from the new Coldplay album but it was just too appropriate for these reviews to pass up. I nearly forgot to mention that I had two reviews in the Spotlight section of Friday's Rocky Mountain News.

The more well-known title is probably David Guterson's new novel, The Other, which I've given the brief once-over to here. You can also read my equally brief exchange with the author over at the Kirkus BEA/ALA Guide, but I'll reproduce it here for the sake of continuity.

Kirkus proclaimed that David Guterson outdistances the long shadow of his bestseller Snow Falling on Cedars (1994) with The Other. Through thoughtful deliberation and a heartbreaking denouement, it follows narrator Neil Countryman’s endeavor to define himself via his friendship with fortunate son John William Barry. “It’s the story of two friends who share an avid interest in the outdoors,” says Guterson. “With time, they go their separate ways, one into a very conventional life, and the other becoming increasingly hermetic, to the point where he isolates himself in the forests of Washington State. Yet the friendship remains intact and yields surprising results for both men.” The novel draws parallels to works as diverse as Thoreau’s Walden and Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, but Guterson was more inspired by reclusive poet Emily Dickinson as well as his own deep regard for the Pacific Northwest. “I was interested in that question of the role of ‘the other’ in one’s life and the way that concept might be embodied not only in someone else but also in the way we carry the other inside of us as a shadow our whole lives,” he says. Even Barry’s notoriety as “the hermit of the Hoh” can’t overwhelm Countryman’s (and the author’s) obvious passion for their native territory. “Psychically, I think it’s true that home is a place that gets under your skin,” says Guterson. “I can’t help feeling a powerful connection to this place no matter where I go in life.”

I've also written another brief review of debut author Nam Le's powerful little book of short stories, The Boat, which appears in the same issue. Between this book and Dead Boys I'm going to have to give some more thought to the possibilities of short fiction. In any case, this guy is somebody to keep an eye on.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Deep Blue Hero

Funny how much weird information about a project you can gather if you start turning over stones.

Via The Rap Sheet and In Reference To Murder comes news via The Hollywood Reporter that director Gary Fleder (Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead) is in talks to direct a film adaptation of John D. MacDonald's novel The Deep Blue Good-By featuring errant knight Travis McGee.

Although you do have to take film media with a grain of salt. Like this gem, from the PR bite. "MacDonald, who wrote the novel on which both "Cape Fear" movies are based, is seen as a predecessor to Carl Hiaasen and other darkly comic crime novelists." Right. Predecessor. Idiots.

This is not terribly exciting news, given this is the guy who also gave us Kiss The Girls (not that a Patterson film was going to blow anybody's skirt up) and Runaway Jury but he did shoot an episode of The Shield and some other halfway decent television work.

Meanwhile back in the world of print, Entertainment Weekly has a little blurb about the project in this week's issue. "Robert Downey Jr. is being courted by studios that want to help him sustain his much-heralded comeback. Following his role in the year's highest-grossing movie (Iron Man), he's one again on their must-have list. In recent weeks, the 43-year-old actor has had his eye on various projects, including Twentieth Century Fox's Travis McGee (based on John D. MacDonald's detective series), Warner Bros.' Sherlock Holmes update from director Guy Ritchie, Gary Ross' fantasy/comedy Dog Years at Universal and Brett Ratner's Hugh Hefner biopic, among others."

Realize, too, that this is the third go-round for McGee. As recently as 1983, McGee came to the small screen in a television adaptation of The Empty Copper Sea with Sam Elliot, of all people, as old Trav and television staple Gene Evans as Meyer. McGee's first outing was in 1970's Darker Than Amber with Aussie actor Rod Taylor in the lead role and Theodore Bikel as his philosophical sounding board.

Maybe the third time's the charm.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Postcards From The End of the World

Okay, after an all-too-short break at the other end of America, I think I've got my head screwed back on straight enough to catch up a little.

First of all, there's a new column at Bookslut, where you can find my addle-minded ramblings on beach books and gets some suggestions for some decent, if eclectic, summer choices. The list includes hot comic book writer of the moment Duane-how-the-hell-do-you-say-Swierczynski-anyway, who gives us a whole new take on office politics in Severance Package; the vastly underrated Don Winslow, who contributes the bitterly cool surf noir The Dawn Patrol; the return of Elvis Cole in Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais; and the upcoming comedy by Adam Davies, Mine All Mine, which gives emotional security a whole new interpretation.

Elsewhere in the issue, Mark Doten talks to the lovely and talented Rivka Galchen about her rabbit hole of a debut novel, Atmospheric Disturbances while Collen Mondor goes down a more historical road in her YA column. In reviews, you can sample a hit of ecstasy, get graphic with Freddie Mercury, or sample this year's O. Henry Prize-winning stories.

Over at Kirkus Reviews, the annual Graphic Literature Special has some very cool selections this year and was a hell of a lot of fun to write, but it isn't quite ready for its debut yet this month. In the meantime, you can browse the new guide to the big books being showcased as we speak at Book Expo America and the American Library Association, including my own interviews with novelist David Guterson (The Other) and war historian Alex Kershaw (Escape From The Deep) as well as spotlights on new titles by Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Lewis Black and America's last combat reporter, Richard Engel. I was lucky enough to lay mitts on the new Lehane myself and will report back from the battle lines when the time is right.

I've been mostly in absentia where books and other mediums are concerned but here's a few items from the culture trenches to pass the time.

First, congratulations go out to two of my favorite addictions, Sarah Weinman and The Rap Sheet for their Anthony Award nominations for best web site and in Sarah's case, another nod for Special Services. Right on.

At the Los Angeles Times, John Cusack holds forth on War, Inc., a satire of combat and corporate America that seems like it should be great but isn't holding much critical ground. I still think the world would have been better served by a Martin Blank sequel, and God knows Cusack looks the part to this day, but what the hell do I know?

In other film news, I think I'm the last one to realize that Lawrence Block scripted the Wong Kar Wai's film Blueberry Nights. In a nice bit of alchemy, Buffalo's ArtVoice takes a taciturn interview and turns it into a thing of substance.

There's obviously something bent about the cinematic adapation of Greg Rucka's Whiteout but whatever it is hasn't made itself apparent yet. But the film does, finally, have a release date.

The Guardian digested read does not bode well for the new James Bond book, Devil May Care: "James Bland trudged round St Peter's Square in Rome."

And finally, you can find all the BEA news from Los Angeles (where all the publicists of the writers I'm currently chasing are hiding from my phone calls) over at GalleyCat, but I think I prefer the authors' perspective best, where you can find Neil Gaiman getting cozy with Judy Blume and Christopher Moore tilting his head at nervous-looking thrillerists and convincing famous guitarists to sign strange things.