Pan paperbacks are among the first adult books I can remember making a serious impression on me. My father had a number of Pan editions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books in the collection of paperbacks he had in his den and from an early age I was entranced by their colourful, energetic, somewhat carnal covers.
Colin Larkin’s Cover Me: The Vintage Art of Pan Books: 1950-1965 notes the Fleming series was, not surprisingly, a huge seller for Pan. The books my father owned, which I still have, include cover art by Pat Owen and ‘Peff’ or Samuel John Peff, the latter one of Pan’s most used artists in the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s. I also discovered from Larkin’s book that the small drawing of a suave looking Bond holding a pistol that appears in a banner at the bottom of the main cover design in some of the Fleming Pan editions, was an illustration of Ralph Vernon-Hunt, the company’s managing director at the time.
Pan paperbacks appeared in Australia in large numbers in the three decades after World War II, and can still be found relatively easily in second-hand bookstores and thrift shops throughout the country. I have a fairly large collection, including I am happy to say, many of those that appear in Larkin’s simply sumptuous work.… Read more
Posted in Crime fiction, Horror, Ian Fleming, Pan Books, Pulp fiction, Pulp fiction in the 70s and 80s, Pulp fiction set in Asia, Pulp Friday, Pulp paperback cover art, Vintage pulp paperback covers
Tagged British paperback cover art, Colin Larkin, Cover Me The Vintage Art of Pan Books 1950-1980, James Bond, mushroom publishers, Pan paperbacks, Peff, Ralph Vernon-Hunt, Samuel John Peff, Telos Publishing
It is fitting that my last post on this site for 2020 is a short tribute to the passing of a writer who has given me an enormous amount of pleasure during this difficult year, David John Moore Cornwell or as he is better known, John le Carré. Since his death on December 12, a sea of ink has been spilt on le Carré’s influence on the spy novel and his undoubted merits as a writer. I don’t intend to go over this territory again. Instead, I want to briefly discuss what it is about his George Smiley series I have found so fascinating. I also want to talk about one of the films based on his work that I believe does not get nearly enough praise, Frank R Pierson’s 1970 adaptation of le Carré’s 1965 novel, The Looking Glass War.
Melbourne, the city I live in, spent the better part of 2020 in hard lockdown in response to the Covid 19 virus. Reading was one of my many responses to suddenly finding myself with more free time. One very wet, cold Saturday morning at the outset of winter I picked up a paperback I bought ages ago – I can’t even remember when and where – the 1964 Penguin Crime edition of Call for the Dead.… Read more
Posted in British crime cinema, Neo Noir, Noir fiction, Non-crime reviews, Sidney Lumet, Spies
Tagged Alistair Maclean, Anthony Hopkins, Call for the Dead, Christopher Jones, Frank R Pierson, George Smiley, John Le Carre, Pia Degermark, Ralph Richardson, Ray McAnally, Sidney Lumet, Susan George, The Honourable Schoolboy, The Little Drummer Girl (2018), The Looking Glass War (1970), The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), When Eight Bells Toll (1971)
The idea to review every screen iteration of Donald
Westlake’s crime character, Parker, originated much earlier in the year, when
Melbourne was in deep in winter and the middle of hard Covid lockdown.
Melbourne is out of that lockdown now and summer is here, and I am much busier,
hence the delay since my last entry.
Anyway, back to it with the next Parker film, Brian Helgeland’s neo noir, Payback Straight Up (2006). This is retelling of the very first Parker novel, The Hunter, published in 1962 and, of course, first filmed by John Boorman as the immortal Point Blank (1967), starring Lee Marvin (and which I wrote about on this site here on the 50th anniversary of the film).
Helgeland, who started out in the movie business as a scriptwriter, is not someone whose work I am particularly across. He did the script for the adaptation of Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential (1997), which I really liked. The same year he also performed wordsmith duty on the script for the simply abysmal post-apocalyptic Kevin Costner vehicle, The Postman. The 1999 film adaptation of The Hunter, titled Payback, was his first outing as a director (he also wrote the script) and by all accounts it was an exceptionally troubled shoot.… Read more
Posted in 60s American crime films, 90s American crime films, Crime fiction, Crime film, Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark, Heist films, Neo Noir
Tagged Bill Duke, Brian Helgeland, David Paymar, Deborah Kara Unger, Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark, Gregg Henry, Jack Conley, John Boorman, Maria Bello, Mel Gibson, Parker, Payback (1999), Payback Straight Up (2006), Point Blank (1967)
One of the great things in the not so great year that was 2020 has been writing regularly for the excellent American site, CrimeReads. My latest for them is live and looks at the the supernatural neo noirs of the late writer, William Hjorstberg.
Hjorstberg’s 1978 book Falling Angel was the basis for Alan Parker’s 1987 supernatural thriller, Angel Heart. Posthumously published for the first time in paperback by Britain’s No Exit Press, the sequel, Angel’s Inferno continues the story of the down at heel private detective, Harry Angel, who takes a routine missing person case and becomes ensnared in an occult nightmare.
Only Angel is now Favorite, the amoral crooner who sold his soul to the devil for fame, then stole Angel’s identity in an attempt to evade payment. And he’s in Paris, determined to hunt down and exact revenge on Lucifer’s earthly manifestation, Louis Cypher.
I was particularly fascinated by the differences between Falling Angel and Parker’s film version, one of several things I write about in my piece which you can read in full here on the crime reads site.
… Read more
Posted in 80s American crime films, Crime fiction, Crime film, Horror, Neo Noir, Noir fiction
Tagged Alan Parker, Angel's Inferno, CrimeReads, Falling Angel, Harry Angel, Mickey Rourke, No Exit Press, Robert De Niro, supernatural noir, William Hjorstberg
I am thrilled to be co-hosting another episode of Mike White’s film podcast, The Projection Booth, this one on William Friedkin’s 1985 neo noir, To Live and Die in L.A. The film pits Treasury agent William Petersen as Richard Chance against Willem Dafoe as artist and forger Rick Masters, and is based on the novel of the same name by former US federal agent turned crime writer, Gerald Petievich. Along with my fellow co-host, Jedidiah Ayres, we were joined by the film’s editor, M. Scott Smith, and one of the its stars, Willem Dafoe.
We dive deep into this film, discussing the breathtaking work of To Love and Die in L.A.’s cinematography Robbie Muller and how the Friedkin demands complete suspension of disbelief from his audience in some many respects of the story and gets it.
We we also talk about the Wang Chung soundtrack, Los Angeles on the screen, how the film embodies the deregulated economic and political policies of the Reagan era, and how it relates to Friedkin’s broader ouvre and other America crime cinema, particularly the other film based on a Petievich book, Boiling Point (1993) and the Michael Cimino effort also released in 1985, Year of the Dragon.
The entire episode is online for your listening pleasure here.… Read more
Posted in 80s American crime films, 90s American crime films, Crime fiction, Crime film, Heist films, Neo Noir
Tagged Boiling Point (1993), Gerald Petievich, M. Scott Smith, Michael Cimino, Neo Noir, Robbie Muller, The Projection Booth podcast, To Live and Die in LA (1985), Wang Chung, Willem Dafoe, William Friedkin, Year of the Dragon (1985)