Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fun with Faulkner

I'm taking some classes for old folks at Johns Hopkins. (I qualify.) One of the instructors asked us to send him an e-mail so that he'd have all our addresses. I wrote, "Since we're doing a Faulkner story next week, maybe I should bring a pint of Bourbon. Faulkner would have wanted it that way."  I expected him to say that wasn't allowed, but instead he said, "Is a pint enough?"

So yesterday I put my partially consumed bottle of Knob Creek and a few plastic cups in my briefcase. Believe me, I had misgivings.  It didn't seem like a hard drinking group, and I didn't want to get any golden agers drunk in the middle of the afternoon.

But they were enthused (as old folks can be) when I took my bottle out, and they poured a few fingers in their cups as I passed it around.

The story was "That Evening Sun Go Down," about as accessible as Faulkner gets for me. An excellent discussion ensued. Boy, that story has depth. And how about those Compsons? What a crazy bunch!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

An interview with Harley Mazuk

Each week the New York Time Book Review picks an author for a short interview in the feature "By the Book."  Amazon informed me that I'm ranked # 3214 in the mystery category, so I think it's going to be a while until the Times gets to  me.  So herewith,  an Interview with Harley Mazuk, author of White with Fish, Red with Murder, "The Tall Blonde with the Hot Boiler," and other short fiction.
What book is on your nightstand now?  

The Best American Short Stories of the Century.  I've been taking a class at Johns Hopkins and we're reading and discussing these—so far "Zelig" by Benjamin Rosenblatt, "Janus" by Ann Beattie, "Double Birthday," by Willa Cather, and "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien.  I often look at the stories in bed, so the book truly is on my nightstand.  This week, I'm reading, "That Evening Sun Go Down," by William Faulkner.  Re-reading it, actually.  It's one of the few Faulkner works I feel comfortable saying, "I understand that."  

To keep a hand in my genre, I'm reading (and sometimes re-reading) the Collected Short Stories of Raymond Chandler.  Last night I was reading "Blackmailers Don't Shoot," his first story.  Had I been the editor of Black Mask, I don't think I would have bought this one.  

What's on your nightstand now?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stories from Bouchercon

I went to a panel of authors at Bouchercon called "Mysteries and the Movies."  Robin Cook, Charlaine Harris, Joseph Finder, and Chelsea Cain talked about their experiences turning their books into film or TV shows.  A couple of them shared the desire to "do a Hitchcock" in the films of their books--in other words, make a brief appearance in the film.  Robin Cook mentioned he got the idea when they were filming Coma.  The director agreed he could sit in a wheelchair in the hallway of the hospital when Michael Douglas figures out what's going on and starts running through the hall.  "But don't say anything, and don't look at the camera." 
Joseph Finder, who's an excellent thriller writer, by the way, wanted to be in the movie recently made from one of his books--and I'm sorry, I can't recall the title.  There was a courtroom scene, and they agreed to put him on the jury.  It was a military trial, though, so he had to get a short haircut. 
After a few days, they thought he had "presence."  So the director made him "assistant prosecutor," a part that hadn't been in the script.  He was supposed to sit at the prosecution table and glare at Morgan Freeman, the defense attorney.  "But don't tell anyone who you are," the director said.  "I don't want anyone to know the author is here."  The prosecutor started talking to him, and asked him if he understood what the story was about, what was at stake in the scene, etc.  "You really should know what's going on in order to play your role," he said.  He proceeded to tell him the story of the whole book until Finder finally whispered, "Look I know what's going on, I'm the author." 
The prosecutor was all excited and yelled, "Hey Morgan, hey everybody!  Guess what?  This is the author."