Category Archives: Crime film

“Dirt under its nails”: Ted Lewis’s Plender

Confession time. I have not been reading a lot of new crime fiction in 2020 and, for reasons that I am sure many of you share, have found it hard to concentrate on reading anything during the Covid-19 lockdown. What I find has been working for me is just picking up something at random from the large number of unread books I have on my shelves and seeing how far I get. Sometimes I don’t get more than 20 pages before turning my attention to something else. Other titles I can’t put down.

Ted Lewis’s 1971 book, Plender, was definitely in the latter category.

I didn’t come to Plender completely cold. As regular readers of this site will know, I am a major Lewis fan. I have written at length about Lewis’s 1970 novel, Jack’s Return Home a.k.a Get Carter, and I reviewed Nick Triplow’s biography of Lewis by Nick Triplow, Getting Carter: Ted Lewis and the Birth of Brit Noir on this site here. Triplow had also recommended Plender at some point in our online correspondence, saying, “It’s got dirt under its nails”. I duly ordered a copy and left it on my shelf where it sat for several years.

Plender was Lewis’s follow up novel to Jack’s Return Home.… Read more

They Made Me a Fugitive

I recently wrote a yet to be published article on the critical furore that greeted the 1939 James Hadley Chase book, No Orchids for Miss Blandish, and the 1948 film version. Among my research was an article by British film academic James Chapman which discussed the film version of No Orchids as part of a cycle of British crime films that drew severe condemnation from censors, moralists and film critics for their depiction of sex and violence and their bleak take on post-war British life. Another was the 1948 adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. But it was the first of this cycle, appearing in 1947, that I had not seen and only vaguely heard about, They Made Me a Fugitive or I Became a Criminal, the title it was released under in the United States.

Fugitive stars Trevor Howard as Clem Morgan, a demobbed Royal Air Force pilot who joins a criminal gang headed by a flash gangster with a very nasty streak, Narcy (Griffith Jones). Narcy runs a funeral parlour business as a front for a black-market operation, the good smuggled in the coffins. Morgan and Narcy take an instant alpha male dislike to each other. Morgan is particularly critical of Narcy’s decision to traffic in what he calls ‘sherbet’, which I think is cocaine (although this is not spelt out in the film).… Read more

“Go. Sleep badly. Any questions, hesitate to call.” Projection Booth episode 463: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Okay everyone, time to stop watching Tiger King and get into to some quality popular culture.

Episode 463 of one my favourite film podcasts has just hit the airwaves and is on the 2005 crime film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. You can access the episode in full from the Projection Booth website at this link.

I join the hardest working man in podcasting, Projection Booth host, Mike White, and crime writer, Jedidiah Ayres, to discuss this deceptively complex piece of crime cinema. Mike also did an interview with the film’s director, Shane Black.

Among the things we cover in this show are the film’s myriad of pop culture references, everything from Sunset Boulevard (1950) to the long running Mike Shayne private investigator pulp series by Brett Halliday, its links to the work of Raymond Chandler, and what one of us (okay, it was me) termed ‘the Shane Black formula’ of film making and storytelling. We also give a lot of love to his other films, particularly the misanthropic delight of The Last Boy Scout (1991), and discuss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’s metafictional elements. … Read more

Post coital fondue with Harry & Ellen

On his site, Hard Boiled Wonderland, Jedidiah Ayres is currently doing a series of posts In February on the theme of ‘Felonious Valentines’ – romance in crime cinema. I stopped by with a few words on one of my favourite scenes in 1970s American cinema and (to my knowledge), the only one featuring post coital fondue. The scene, featuring Gene Hackman and Susan Clark, is in, Arthur Penn’s existentially bleak 1975 neo noir, Night Moves. You can my post in full here.

Pass me a fondue fork.… Read more

Blowback: late 1960s and 1970s pulp and popular fiction about the Vietnam War

If you are still on the fence about purchasing a copy of my new book, Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and the Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, the site CrimeReads is running a couple of extracts from the book. The first is my piece, ‘Blowback: late 1960s and 1970s pulp and popular fiction about the Vietnam War’.

The conflict in Vietnam cast a long shadow over pulp and popular fiction in the late 1960s and the 1970s. Vietnam veterans were hunted by small town redneck police in David Morrell’s 1972 novel, First Blood, dealt drugs in Vern E Smith’s The Jones Men, and staged an abortive bank heist in Dog Day Afternoon, both published in 1974. In the Lone Wolf series ex-New York cop and Vietnam veteran, Burt Wulff mounted a fourteen-book battle from 1973 to 1975 against the drug dealing criminal organisation, ‘The Network’, in which he treated the streets of America’s major cities as an extension of jungles of Southeast Asia. Vietnam was the training ground for many of the characters that populated men’s adventure and crime pulp in the 1970s. More broadly, Vietnam’s traumatic impact on American society would become a cypher through which pulp and popular fiction name checked cultural fragmentation, growing disillusionment with the American dream, dishonest and unaccountable government and corporations, and the power of the military industrial complex.… Read more