Summer is the one time of the year I am able find a decent amount of time to read. And, despite going full bore on my PhD at present, this year has, thankfully, been no different. Here is a very brief mid-summer reading report back.
The Real Lolita, Sarah Weinman
I have to fess up to not having read Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, Lolita, or seen either of the films based on it (I have Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 version and, having read The Real Lolita, want to see it). This didn’t stop me from devouring Weinman’s book. The Real Lolita has two threads. The first deals with the 1948 abduction of an eleven-year-old New Jersey girl, Sally Horner. The second looks at the torturous process by which Nabokov created what is his best-known work, the story of a middle-aged literature professor and his obsession and, eventually, sexual relationship with a 12-year-old girl, a story which Weinman contends Nabokov partly based on the Horner case.
Weinman painstakingly recreates the circumstances of Horner’s abduction and sexual grooming by a much older man, and the lengthy police investigation into her disappearance. It is fascinating, at times, horrific stuff and she puts it together brilliantly. I found the second strand concerning Nabokov less satisfying. … Read more
Posted in Australian crime fiction, Australian noir, Crime fiction, Neo Noir, Noir fiction, Science fiction and fantasy, True crime
Tagged Anna Kavan, Dancing Home, David Whish-Wilson, he Coves, Ice, Ira Levin, Lolita, Lou Berney, November Road, Paul Collis, Sarah Weinman, The Boys From Brazil, The Coves, The Real Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Towards the end of last year I posted on my love for the 1968 espionage/war thriller, Where Eagles Dare. My first post for 2019 continues what is becoming an unofficial series of sorts on this site, ‘in praise of films I watched with my parents on the television on Sunday night when I was young’. This time, I want to briefly pay tribute to the incredibly hard-boiled late sixties revisionist war film by Hungarian emigre, Andre De Toth, Play Dirty.
I am not sure exactly what was going on with war films in the late 1960s – I assume it was the influence of the radical tenor of the times – but there was a whole crop of them that really took the gloves off in terms in their cynical, gritty depiction of the utter corruption and folly of war. Think Jack Cardiff’s The Dark of the Sun (1968), and Phil Karlson’s Hornet’s Nest (1970), as well as the aforementioned Where Eagles Dare, just to name a few I have featured on this this site previously.
Set on the North African front during World War II, I reckon Play Dirty is up there with the most hard-boiled and cynical of them. Plus January 1 was the 50th anniversary of its release, a milestone that went totally unmentioned anywhere, so the time is right to give it a bit of love.… Read more
Posted in Andre De Toth, Michael Caine, War film
Tagged Andre de Toth, Crime Wave (1953), Day of the Outlaw (1959), Hardboiled war films, Harry Andrews, House of Wax (1953), Jack Cardiff, Micheal Caine, Nigel Davenport, Nigel Green, Play Dirty (1969), Robert Aldrich, The Dirty Dozen (1967), Where Eagles Dare (1968)
I reconciled myself long ago to the fact I will never get to the end of a year without thinking I have not read as much as I should have. That said, I have read some great books this year. Fiction and non-fiction, old books and new, in no particular order, here are my top ten reads for 2018.
Red Dragon, Thomas Harris
This year, I read a few bestsellers from the past to see if I can figure out what made them so successful, and this was my favourite. The book that introduced Hannibal Lector, it is a riveting rollercoaster ride into the serial killer mind. Beautifully written and acutely observed. Harris includes some incredible detail on forensics and police procedure without overdoing it. Red Dragon is the perfect mix of elevated airport novel and hardboiled crime story.
Twisted Clay, Frank Walford
Australian writer, Frank Walford’s 1933 account of a murderous young woman, a pathological liar and sociopath, was banned in Australia until the late 1950s. The story, which contains patricide, sex work, suicide and the young female main character’s burgeoning awareness and enjoyment of her lesbian sexuality, is a wonderfully lurid read. One can only wonder what readers must have made of it in the 1930s. Not surprisingly, they seemed to like it as it was a bestseller in the UK and US, where it was published.… Read more
Posted in 70s American crime films, Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Noir fiction, Non-crime reviews, Science fiction and fantasy, True crime
Tagged 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded, Beautiful Revolutionary, Bran Mak Morn: Legion From the Shadows, Charles Taylor, Elka Ray, Frank Walford, Hard Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Post-War Los Angeles, Jack Waters, Jon Lewis, Jon Savage, Karl Edward Wagner, Laura Elizabeth Woollett, Opening Wednesday at a Theater Or Drive-In Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American 1970s, Patricia Highsmith, Red Dragon, Ripley's Game, Saigon Dark, Scott Adleberg, Scott Adlerberg, Thomas Harris, Twisted Clay
Regular readers of Pulp Curry may be familiar with the name Iain McIntyre, my co-editor on Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980, and its follow up, Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980, out sometime in 2019. Iain is also the editor of a number of his own books, the most recent of which, On the Fly! Hobo Literature & Songs, 1879-1941, has just come out through PM Press. On the Fly! is an anthology which brings together dozens of stories, poems, songs, stories, and articles produced by hoboes to create an insider history of the subculture’s rise and fall. Iain was good enough to answer a few questions about his latest book, researching hobohemia, and the links between hobo culture and crime writing.
One of the points you make in the introduction to On the Fly! is that while there have been a lot of historical and academic studies about American hobo culture, there is very little currently available in the words of the members of the culture themselves. Where did you get the inspiration for this book?
I’d long been aware of hobohemia’s influence on American popular culture via country and folk music songs, Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp character, etc but it wasn’t until I met some modern train hoppers in the 1990s that my interest was really piqued.… Read more
Posted in Crime fiction, Interviews, Non-crime reviews, True crime
Tagged 1879-1941, Boxcar Bertha, Hobo culture, hobohemia, Iain McIntyre, Jack London, Jim Tully, Kenneth Alsop, On the Fly: Hobo Literature & Songs, PM Press, Todd De Pastono
Like a quick and dirty mission behind enemy lines, last weekend I polished off Geoff Dyer’s love letter to the 1968 war thriller, Where Eagles Dare, ‘Broadsword Calling Danny Boy’.
It is a strange little essay. Not really a monograph, because it tells you very little about the making and impact of the film, the things a monograph usually does, and more an extended meditation on why it is such a great action film and the culture milieu into which it was born. A milieu that Dyer grew up in and which was pretty similar for a boy in Australia in the 1970s when I was growing up.
One of my favourite things about Dywer’s essay was the various cultural associations and memories it aroused. The war had only been over for a quarter of a century and, looking back then, it still felt strangely present, like it was not quite ‘history’ in the way it is now; war films were big business and our parents unselfconsciously took us, often at a very young age, to see them; newsagents were full of those graphic Sven Hassel paperbacks; we lived on British comics that were full of German soldiers barking basic English; and, the must have toy was a GI Joe, who amongst his many uniforms, could be dressed as a German soldier.… Read more
Posted in Spies, War film
Tagged 'Broadsword Calling Danny Boy', Clint Eastwood, Derren Nesbitt, Geoff Dyer, Ingrid Pitt, Mary Ure, Patrick Wymark, Richard Burton, Sven Hassel, Where Eagles Dare (1968)