Category Archives: Newton Thornburg

Post traumatic noir – a note on the passing of Robert Stone

cover600spanThe death of US writer Robert Stone on the weekend has drawn me out of the break I planned on posting on this site over January.

Stone was the author of two tremendous works of neo-noir fiction, both of which I read when I was first getting into the genre.

The first, Stone’s debut novel, A Hall of Mirrors, was published in 1967 and partly set in New Orleans, where Stone lived briefly. It dealt with a dissolute, opportunistic right wing radio broadcaster and the desperate, doomed characters he associates with. It was turned into an excellent film called WUSA by Stuart Rosenberg in 1970 and starring Paul Newman, then in the throws of his battling his own alcoholism (I reviewed it on this site a couple of years ago here.

The second, the better known and probably more influential of Stone’s books, Dog Soldiers, was published in 1974. The 1978 film  adaption, Who’ll Stop The Rain (reviewed on this site here), is also very good.

Dog Soldiers concerns a liberal war correspondent in Vietnam, Converse, who disillusioned with what he has seen, decides to traffic heroin back to the US. He enlists Hicks, his friend in the merchant marines, to take the drugs back to Converse’s wife, Marge, in Los Angeles.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Newton Thornburg’s heist novel, Knockover

Knockover“The scheme was so perfect, the take was so big, you couldn’t ask for anything more-but one of them did.

I’ve got a little gem of a Pulp Friday today, the very rare Australian release of Newton Thornburg’s little known heist novel, Knockover.

Although he was a great success in the seventies, the peak period of his literary output, Thornburg kept a low profile in successive decades. So much so that when he died in 2011, it took a month before the first proper literary obituary appeared.

He is best known for the 1976 novel, Cutter and Bone. While I love the book and the 1981 movie version, Cutter’s Way (and which I reviewed on this site here), I have a preference for, To Die In California, a 1973 novel about a father’s investigation into the murder of his son in post-Summer of Love Los Angeles.

Knockover, Thornburg’s second book was originally published by Fawcett Gold Medal in 1968. Thornburg said he wrote Knockover explicitly with the hope of a movie sale in mind. Apparently the rights were optioned but nothing ever came of it. The story revolves around a former advertising executive, Cross, who puts together a team of criminals to pull off an armoured car robbery.… Read more

Cutter’s Way: post traumatic noir

review_Cutters-WayAmerican crime films in the seventies and early eighties were littered with the damaged veterans of the Vietnam War.

They appear in most of the key crime sub-genres: the revenge film (Rolling Thunder), the road movie (Electra Glide in Blue), the drug sub-culture (Who’ll Stop the Rain, the adaption of Robert Stone’s novel, Dog Soldiers), and Blaxsploitation (the 1973 film, Gordon’s War, to name just one of many).

Film noir’s contribution is the 1981 movie, Cutter’s Way.

As Woody Haut argued in Neon Noir, his book on contemporary American crime fiction, Vietnam not only damaged the body politic it blurred the line between the perpetrators of crimes and the people who investigate them. In Cutter’s Way the quest to avenge a young woman’s murder is left to the rejects and outsiders who populate the underbelly of post-Vietnam American society.

Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges), a part-time gigolo and boat salesman, is returning from a late night assignation when his beat-up car stalls in an alleyway. Another vehicle pulls up behind him and in the heavy rain and headlight glare we see a man get out and throw something into a nearby rubbish bin. The car speeds off, nearly hitting Bone in the process.… Read more