Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tom Horn

http://www.librairielecailler.com/blog/general/imagenes/tom-horn-783425.jpgI just watched William Wiard's "Tom Horn" for the first time since it came out in 1980. Written by Tom McGuane and Bud Shrake and starring Steve McQueen in his next-to-last role, it's a lot better than I remembered. McQueen plays Horn as both childish, trusting naïf and casual killer, a man who never really understands the forces allied against him. It's beautifully shot by John Alonzo, with appearances from Elishah Cook, Jr, and Slim Pickens, it's one of the last of the great westerns of the period.
There's an interesting comparison to be made with Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate," another elegiac treatment of Wyoming's range wars. (If you've been avoiding "Heaven's Gate" all these years because of the critical drubbing it took over the issue of Cimino's profligate spending, do yourself a favor and check it out--it's a textbook example of contemporary critical consensus getting it dead fucking wrong.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Bad Day for Sorry

I haven't posted any book stuff in a while, but since the last one I recommended got a well-deserved Edgar nomination (Megan Abbott's Bury Me Deep) I thought I'd mention another pal of mine who got a nod this year. Sophie Littlefield, who hails originally from Missouri, ventures into Woodrell country with A Bad Day for Sorry, a tale of revenge and bad luck and middle-aged country ladies bearing some serious fucking grudges. It's funny and nasty and all those other things I know you like, and plus the jacket art gave me a funny happy feeling in my pants. As did the book.

Have I said too much? I have, haven't I?


Thursday, January 21, 2010

A blog you should be following

My pal Jeremy Trylch, who's living in China with his wife and son, is now publishing short stories on his blog. He's a terrific writer and if you're following this blog you'll find things there to your liking:


Monday, January 18, 2010

"I Wouldn't Come Up Here and Lie to You."

In Wichita Kansas on the night of May 3, 1921, Mortz (Moritz?) Schmidt came home to his wife Mary Francis (Frances?) and threatened her several times with a gun. By 7:30 on the morning of the 4th he was dead, and within two hours his widow was making a statement to the Chief of Police, the Deputy County Attorney, a stenographer and, oddly, a Special Agent for the Rock Island Railroad: (Click to enlarge)

Prohibition was in force at the time, which may account for the fact that no mention is made of alcohol having been consumed, but Schmidt's behavior certainly seems alcohol-fueled.
The opening statement indicates that the couple lived at 417 E. Douglas, but her statement indicates that the address was 417 E. Dewey.

Ambrose Bierce said there are four kinds of murder: felonious, excusable, justifiable and praiseworthy (a tip of the hat to Craig McDonald). This I would qualify as belonging to the last category. Almost ninety years on the story still feels very modern, thanks perhaps to the stenographer's accuracy in recording Mary Schmidt's distinctive phrasing. I'd love to know what happened to Mary after this. Does anyone know if Deputy County Attorney Sidney Foulston is any relation to recent Wichita DA Nora Foulston?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Will of Landru

Here's another picture I found in Wichita. Where is this, and what are these men doing? My first thought was that everyone was leaving church, but in that case where are the womenfolk? The seller suggested that it was a parade, but my impression is that it's mass hypnosis and they've been sent out on some sort of unspeakable 19th century mission by a local Svengali. They do bear a certain resemblance costume-wise to the people of Landru, don't they?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Uncle Fester Brings Relief

This is another Wichita find. Jackie Coogan, still a huge child star in the wake of Chaplin's "The Kid," participates in a bit of publicity. The letterhead on the back of the photo is from the production company his parents Jack and Lilian Coogan ran. After Jack Sr.'s death Lilian married Arthur Berstein, and the pair chiseled Jackie out of so much dough that a Hollywood child labor law that was enacted shortly thereafter was known popularly as the Coogan Bill.

And he grew up to be Uncle Fester on TV. He's already starting to look a little bit like him in this picture, bangs and sailor suit notwithstanding....

Friday, January 1, 2010

Silver Naked Lady

Happy New Year. Please click to enlarge this prime example of '30s studio "art" photography. The subject, clad only in g-string, headdress and copious amounts of silver body paint, is one Carella Alden, who I can only assume was a dancer at the time the picture was taken (it's addressed to a certain Aline, a dancer who retired to Wichita to open a dancing school.) All I've been able to determine about Carella is that she was later a successful author of books about Persian, Japanese and early American art, some of them for children. From a Wichita flea market that yielded a number of photographic surprises this December.