The World of Shaft

The World of Shaft

You might remember the news last year that New Line pictures had acquired the rights to do yet another film remake featuring the iconic character of John Shaft. If so, you may also remember the ensuring controversy that erupted over plans to make said film a comedy, including an open letter protesting the move by  award winning journalist, David F Walker.

I am not sure at what stage the proposal Shaft remake is at, but I totally agree with Walker in his introduction to Steve Aldous’s recently released guide to the character, ‘When author Ernest Tidyman’s book Shaft was first published in 1971, and director Gordon Parks’ cinematic adaption followed a year later, a new era of representation began in American pop culture.’

The World of Shaft attempts to chronicle the cultural phenomena that is the ex-juvenile delinquent, Vietnam Vet, New York private eye known as Shaft. From the character’s origins via the pen of white ex-newspaperman Tidyman to the, in my opinion, rather average 2000 cinematic remake, this is an exhaustive examination of every aspect of the character and his various manifestations.

Shaft emerged from a combination of Tidyman’s desperation to make it as a writer and, as he put it in an interview, his “awareness of both social and literary situations in a changing city.… Read more

Police fictions: Law enforcement involvement in early Crawford crime TV

Division 4 #6 TV ad‘Why was Homicide so successful? One reason was its production values, which was much more advanced than previously made local television dramas. The fact it was shot partly on location was also an Australian first. But the most significant drawcard was the show’s realism. Its settings were Melbourne’s dimly lit streets and alleys, its public bars and cramped workers’ cottages. The show also presented a realistic portrayal of criminals, investigators and the methods used to solve crimes. This authenticity was the chief selling point of Homicide and its successors, Division 4 and Matlock Police. And crucial to this authenticity was the in-depth involvement of the Victorian police.’

Last year, myself and fellow research and friend, Dean Brandum, were lucky to be awarded with a joint fellowship at the Australian Film Institute Research Centre. Our research was on the making of Crawford’s early television crime shows, Homicide, Matlock Police and Division 4. This included the much talked about but little known history of Victorian police involvement in all three shows.

You can read the full text of a article myself and Dean wrote for the literary magazine Overland, about our findings, here.

Suspiria, giallo cinema & the lure of the sensory: An interview with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Suspiria 3Alexandra Heller-Nicholas is a Melbourne-based film critic and academic, specialising in cult, exploitation and horror film. Her books include Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study, Found Footage Horror Films: Fear and the Appearance of Reality, and most recently Suspiria, on Italian director Dario Agento’s 1976 film of the same. Alex kindly agreed to talk to me about her new book, the phenomena of witches in film and the ongoing fascination with giallo cinema. And a warning, unless your film collection is as good as hers, it will be hard for you to get through the following interview without making a lengthy list of films you’ll want to locate and purchase.

Drink-&-CameraAlex, You open the book with a playful but terrific quote from US film critic Joe Bob Briggs, that Suspiria is ‘the Gone With the Wind of Eyetalian horror’. You call it ‘one of the most breathtaking instances of the modern horror film’. Why is Suspiria such an important movie, not just in the context of Italian film cinema but horror cinema, generally?

If you forgive my turn to the colloquial, Suspiria is at its very core a film that sincerely does not give a fuck about what a film is ‘supposed’ to be: this manifests in a spirit of true experimentalism, a genuine love of ‘art’ both as a general concept and the very materiality of cinema itself.Read more

Beat Not the Bones & the story of an Australian Edgar Allan Poe Award winner

Beat Not the Bones Avon 1955As many of the my US readers will no doubt be aware, America’s foremost crime writing awards, the annual Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Awards, will be presented on April 28.

The upcoming awards make it an opportune time to revisit the winner of the Edgar Award in 1954. That book was called Beat Not the Bones, and it was written not by an American but by an Adelaide-born woman called Geraldine Halls, writing under the pseudonym, Charlotte Jay. That the winner the next year was Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, gives you some idea how prestigious Halls’ win was.

Why some writers and their books go onto achieve lasting literary fame, while others, in this case Halls and her considerable work, sink into obscurity, always fascinates me. In a writing career stretching from 1951 to her last published novel in 1995, she produced fifteen books. Seven of these appeared under the pseudonym of Jay, her maiden name, and seven as Geraldine Halls, Halls being her married name. Another was published under the alias Geraldine Mary Jay.

There is very little information available about Halls, who died in Adelaide in October 1996, and the only image I could find on the Internet is on the Austlit site and is taken from the Adelaide Advertiser, dated May 8, 1853.… Read more

Shilling some new publications

CarnivalEvery now and again one has to do a post that is essentially just one big shill. Well, this is one of those posts. I have been meaning to update you for a while now about current and upcoming publications I am involved in. So, here goes.

Crime Scenes Stories


Crime Scenes stories
I alerted readers a while ago to a new anthology of Australian short crime fiction, published by Sydney based Spineless Wonders, and edited by Zane Lovett, whose debut crime novel The Midnight Promise won best first crime at the 2014 Ned kelly awards.

Last weekend I took part in the Newcastle Writers Festival, at which the anthology, Crime Scenes, was formally launched. I have a story in this collection called ‘Postcard From, Cambodia’, along side pieces by David Whish-Wilson, Leigh Redhead, Carmel Bird, Peter Corris, PM Newton and my partner, Angela savage.

Seriously, anthologies of Australian crime fiction are a rare thing, which makes this anthology something of a special event. You can order Crime Scenes for your Kindle or in paperback from Amazon here or you can buy it directly from the Spineless Wonders site here.

Crime Factory Issue 18

Issue 18 of the award winning magazine Crime Factory, which I co-edit, is out and contains the usual great mix of fiction, features and reviews.… Read more