Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Flitcraft Parable

The Spitbucket blog focuses on my writing, so I didn’t mention earlier that I started attending some classes this fall at Johns Hopkins.  I’m in a non-degree program called “Osher,” mainly for retired folks who have days free and like to discuss and share ideas on literature, the arts, humanities, philosophy and the like.  

I was in a very good “Great Books” program, in which we read Best American Short Stories of the 20th Century, the Updike-edited anthology.  This is a real treasure and I was fascinated to see week after week how some of these fun, powerful, rich stories affected folks who were not English lit students per se, just average albeit perceptive readers.  

At the end of the session, one of the gals invited us all over for lunch and drinks, and asked everyone to bring a short reading to share.  Interesting mish-mash of choices.  One fellow read a humorous Erskine Caldwell piece, two women brought the same poetry book, (in Hebrew!)
I brought “The Flitcraft Parable” (http://www.fallingbeam.org/beam.htm ) an excerpt from Dashiell Hammett’s novel, The Maltese Falcon.  I gave it my best dramatic reading, enjoying myself, but not expecting too much enthusiasm.  But I’m really happy to say it was a great hit.  The Flitcraft Parable stands on its own, and goes over well with people hearing it for the first time—which amazes me because I’ve read it time and again, and I’m not sure I understand it.  Or maybe I understand Flitcraft, but haven’t figured out why it’s in The Maltese Falcon, and what it means to Sam Spade.  These are questions I think about when I write.  
Anyhow, I had a great time sharing Hammett with my new old friends, and seeing how a great P.I. writer elicited their reactions. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Our long national agent search is over...

I "signed" with Julia Lord Literary Management.  I'm excited and Julia and agent Ginger Curwen sound excited too.  Ginger gave my manuscript, White with Fish, Red with Murder, a good read.  From talking to her, I feel as if she really understood what I was trying to do.  She seemed to catch all the obscure allusions and the spirit of fun.  Julia has great enthusiasm for the book, and I hope she's right because it sounds like she has higher hopes for it than I did.  She was knocked out of her W. 9th St. office by Hurricane Sandy, but called me from her temp. quarters in Western Mass. to offer representation.   
They're a great pair for me to be working with as a first time novelist.  Let's hope this is the beginning of a wonderful partnership. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

An interview w/Harley Mazuk (cont'd)

You're organizing a dinner party of writers and can invite three authors, dead or alive.  Who's coming?  

This is a tough one as so many of the authors I'd like to meet might not be good dinner guests.  They might create a scene, and not with their writing.  Hemingway might want to box three rounds.  Raymond Chandler might be too depressing, too intoxicated to converse with.  Dr. Hunter S. Thompson might be on drugs and carrying semi-automatic pistols.  I admire Albert Camus, but I don't speak French.  I'd love to meet some Russians, but I don't speak Russian either.
Dashiell Hammett might do.  He drank too much but I'd say he could hold it.  He could tell me how to create scenes and "stir things up."  Edgar Allan Poe because he's a true genius.  I just hope he wouldn't be too tough on my work.  And I think I'd like to meet Flannery O'Connor.  Perhaps we could talk about ideas and character. 

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." 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reading list at the Black Lizard Lounge

I'm getting excited about going to Cleveland for the Bouchercon in about two and a half-weeks.  But I'll blog about that later.  Today I thought I'd tell you what we're reading here at the Black Lizard Lounge.  Did I mention the light's terrible here?  I hope I don't ruin my eyes.  I don't think they want you to see the stains on the red vinyl booth cushions.  

Anyhow, right now we're reading: 
     The Prince by Machiavelli
     Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
     Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom and
     The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette
The first two are for some classes I'm starting next week at Johns Hopkins.  Winter in Madrid is my bedtime novel, and The Prone Gunman is my daily dose of noir.  

We've recently finished:
     Seven Slayers by Paul Cain, (Daily Dose of Noir)
     Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett (thanks, Shane),
     Black Friday by David Goodis, (DD of N)
     King Lear by Wm. Shakespeare (for another Johns Hopkins),
     Serena by Ron Rash and
     The Gospel of Mark. 
If you'd like to share your thoughts about any of these, try the comments section, or subscribe to this blog.