Tag Archives: noir

It’s a grubby little world…

But so what? Mix me a redhead and tell me what you got that’s any better?

The Woman Chaser (1999) goes online May 1, 2014.

The Woman Chaser (1999) goes online May 1, 2014.

A few updates on yesterday’s post, helping spread the word about THE WOMAN CHASER (1999) going online starting May 1st. As you may know, I’m a huge fan of Charles Willeford, whose novels redefined noir fiction starting in the late fifties and early sixties. The Robinson Devor-directed adaptation of Willeford’s 1960 novel, “The Woman Chaser,” starring Patrick Warburton, goes online soon for your streaming pleasure, first to I-Tunes and Amazon May 1st, following with Netflix and Hulu in June 2014.

Here’s the official blurb:

Ex-used car salesman and filmmaker Richard Hudson burned down Mammoth Studios for butchering his masterpiece, “The Man Who Got Away.” Paroled after 14 years in prison, Hudson is still unrepentant
Watch the interview here:

The website is now live, with a team of busy digital ex-used car salesman elves working on tuneups, new additions and unbelievable deals: Visit: WomanChasertheMovie.com .

"jesse sublett, noir fiction author from Austin, Texas" + "Charles Willeford"

Me & Charles Willeford in New York Times

I know I mentioned writing about Willeford and The Woman Chaser for New York Times in 2000. In case you missed that little self-promoting item, here’s a blown-up version of the article, but it’s much easier to read online.

Brent Simon, at shareddarkness.com wrote of The Woman Chaser’s “cool, offbeat elegy for old school noir… a time warp Get Shorty with the experimental ethos of a student film and the studied composition of a [loving] homage.”

Jeffrey M. Anderson, writing at combustiblecelluloid.com, wrote that “The Woman Chaser is a very off-kilter picture, and it’s bound to throw viewers for a loop.” Now, the uninitiated might see a line like that and assume it’s a negative assessment, but if your reading experiences include, for example, The Shark Infested Custard,  The Way We Die Now, or maybe Kiss Your Ass Good-Bye, … and let’s throw in The Black Mass of Brother Springer, you’ll probably have a knowing smile on your face.

Michael Dequina at themoviereport.com wrote that Devor’s film version was “cool, offbeat elegy for old school noir… a time warp Get Shorty with the experimental ethos of a student film and the studied composition of a [loving] homage.” Dig it. Michael must be feeling vindicated at the news that Scott Frank, who adapted Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty as well as Out of Sight, is the screenwriter for the FX pilot Hoke, based on Charles Willeford’s great Miami homicide detective series, which was last brilliantly adapted in Miami Blues, and three other fine sequels will be source material if the series is picked up.

Mere Bertrand at filmthreat.com wasn’t totally blown away by The Woman Chaser, but despite the caveats, he gave a rating of 4 out of 5, which ain’t bad. Would Richard Hudson would  burn down their website for not giving it a 5? Probably not. Again, from the context of the review, I don’t think Bertrand is familiar with the Willeford oeuvre. He compares Richard Hudson to Puddy, the role trademarked by Patrick Warburton on Seinfeld… as if Warburton had written Willeford’s novel. If you’re steeped in Seinfeld but haven’t read many Willeford novels, I suppose this short sightedness is understandable. Bertrand does, however, recommend the film, as we see in his conclusion:

By essentially reprising his TV role in a nastier form here, Warburton runs the risk of being permanently known for this one character. Lucky for him and, in the case of “The Woman Chaser,” lucky for us as well that he plays this humorously loathsome character so well.

Interestingly, the best reviews for The Woman Chaser seem to have been from California bloggers. Check out ex-San Diego writer Scott Renshaw, whose main gig is writing for the Salt Lake City Weekly, and he gave TWC an 8 out of 10 in a fab review. Sample quote:

THE WOMAN CHASER is different in all the right ways. It’s energetic and imaginative where other parodies are too often limp and witless. It skewers the ego of film-makers, but never loses its love for film-making. It even pokes fun at film noir without resorting to predictable gags. THE WOMAN CHASER is a surprise in every positive sense of the word, because really, it shouldn’t work.

Peter Stack at the San Francisco Chronicle also loved TWC. “THE WOMAN CHASER – A SWING AND A HIT–SWANK HOLLYWOOD SPOOF HAS A PULP FEEL” opens by calling it a “black comedy” and

“The Woman Chaser” is a teasy, cogent and funny noir spoof of dime novels and 1960s Hollywood. The title role is played with inspired swagger by Patrick Warburton, the handsome lug famed as Elaine’s thick boyfriend, Puddy, on “Seinfeld.”
Indie writer-director Robinson Devor, in his feature debut, creates a retro Hollywood of cocktail lounges, gimlet glasses and finned Caddies with confident style, capturing L.A. in a crisp mix of surreal and real. The landmark Capitol Records building — designed to look like a stack of vinyl records on a turntable — is a well-used part of the backdrop.

UNLIKELY HERO
Based on a pulp novel by Charles Willeford (“Miami Blues”), Devor’s script is a clever satire that tells the mean story of a used-car salesman driven by mad inspiration to become a moviemaker, a character whose pimpish savvy is powered by a hopelessly dangerous blend of ego and cluelessness.
A standout scene — maybe a classic — features the bearish Warburton, half naked, dancing balletically with his ex-dancer mother (Lynette Bennett). “The Woman Chaser” is funny but edgy, too. Warburton’s obsessed salesman, Richard Hudson, is perversely charming. His main gig in life is self-aggrandizement. Trysts with a secretary, his virginal stepsister and a Salvation Army worker have no emotional impact on him — he’s fired up only by his quest to become an artist.

HOLLYWOOD NIGHTS
The car salesman’s bravado, deadpan delivery and bordering-on-psycho emotional makeup make for a strangely compelling character. Hudson turns over his business to oddball flunkies in order to chase his dream of making a film titled “The Man That Got Away,” about a trucker who runs over a little girl and her dog.
In a world strewn with the sort of amusing misfits who were staples of precorporate Hollywood, the salesman enlists the backing of his mother’s husband — a failed movie director — and lands a deal with a steely studio mogul. Ultimately, there’s a showdown over artistic freedom that costs “The Woman Chaser” some of its edge. But that’s a mere quibble with a film that’s so much fun.– Advisory: This film contains strong language and graphic sex.

At Village Voice, Amy Taubin really hits the film critic mainline (as in the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray”), referring to Willeford’s style as “psychopulp” and stating that, “At various times, The Woman Chaser suggests Ben Hecht’s The Spectre of the Rose, a Curtis Harrington mood piece, and various underground flicks from Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detourto Irving Lerner’s Murder by Contract…” I like Taubin’s style, and recommend reading the entirety of her fine review.

Finally, Dan Lybarger at nitratelonline.com wrote a fine piece on THE WOMAN CHASER. Again, he makes the Get Shorty comparisonSample line:

The Woman Chaser has a Get Shorty-like bemusement at the silliness of the entertainment industry. It’s also bolstered by a remarkably effective film noir-ish atmosphere. In addition to being presented in black-and-white, the movie features an eclectic selection of 50’s-era music that’s both eclectic and refreshing. None of these fascinating tunes (played by everybody from Dave Brubeck to Tito Puente) ever plays on oldies radio stations, and they fit the eerie visuals perfectly. The supporting cast also look right at home in the Eisenhower Era surroundings. The actors, some of whom are non-professionals, look nothing like the ones who usually populate Hollywood flicks. Most have a 50s-style paunch that most contemporary filmmakers seem to ignore.

"Jesse Sublett, surrealist blues singer"

Me & my Robert Mitchum on wood by Abby Levine

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An Excellent Monday Idea

Or, another shameless plug, whichever you prefer. At The Buzz Mill this evening, at 7:30 PM more or less sharp, a new edition of Murder Ballad Monday and Grave Digger Blues Radio Theater. We’ll be performing, along with new and old favorites from my repertoire of murder ballads, blues and tragic originals (see a sampling below), Chapter 2 of my novel Grave Digger Blues. Starring Mona Pitts as Francine Ray, Ricardo Acevedo as The Blues Cat, Walter Daniels as The White Haired Maniac, and my terrible self as Narrator. All these individuals join me tonight from their stellar and unique roles in the community of Austin artists, as photographers, artists, blues singers and general avant garde provocateurs, and I’m lucky to be able to present them to you on this lovely stage in South Austin tonight.

Walter Daniels will also be joining me on harmonica for a few songs.

The show runs for about 90 minutes so we’ll be finishing up by 9 PM. The Buzz Mill (1505 Town Creek Dr, off Riverside) has great coffee, snacks and a nice selection of beer, wine and hard booze. Lately I’ve been drinking Buffalo Trace whisky there, myself. There’s a cool beer garden with a friendly breeze coming in off the lake, since we’re situated just on the South Shore of Lady Bird Lake, down Riverside a few blocks East of I35, just before Walgreen’s and Antone’s.

One other note, or two: copies of the print edition of Grave Digger Blues will be for sale at the gig, and you may view three new paintings by my terrible self at the Continental Club Gallery for the rest of the month of May. Two of the paintings have already been sold. Those pictures are at the bottom of this page. Tonight’s set will include songs like Stagger Lee, Somebody Changed the Lock on My Door, See that My Grave is Kept Clean, and many others.

Grave Digger Blues is also available at BookPeople and South Congress Books.

 

Francine Ray 2

art by Jesse Sublett, noir, Grave Digger Blues, hardboiled, pulp fiction

Lila Explains What Happened to Your Car (RED), SOLD

Melba Lou Has Heard it All Before PAINTED HANK frontal blue MEDIUM

Jesse Sublett, pulp fiction, crime novelist, noir

Melba Lou Has Heard it All Before, by Jesse Sublett 8 x 10 acrylic

 

Jesse Sublett, noir, pulp fiction, crime novelist

Hank Zzybnx, The Last Detective at the End of the World, 8 x 12, ink, SOLD

FYI, another versions of “Lila Explains What Happened to Your Car” can be ordered from the artist, here. These are metallic prints, and the other colors include blue, light blue, green, light green, and purple.

The limited edition signed, framed metallic prints, 16 x 24, are $350. I am offering unframed prints for $100. I can also do a smaller size for a slightly lower price, such as 11 x 17 for $75.

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GRAVE DIGGER BLUES HAS ‘EM ON THE ROPES

 

Here’s the latest review of Grave Digger Blues, the Kindle edition, by Chris Leek, a reviewer for the fabulous pulp fiction site OutoftheGutterOnline.com . Read it here or below.

 

Review: Grave Digger Blues by Jesse Sublett

Chris Leek
Independent Reviewer
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Joe Clifford recently said in his introduction to Zelmer Pulp’s exciting new Sci-fi collection: “You think the world is a festering fuckstain today? Just wait until Thursday.” After reading Jesse Sublett’s dystopian noir novel Grave Digger Blues, I’m inclined to agree.

IPAD EDITION COVER BY RICARDO ACEVEDO

IPAD EDITION COVER BY RICARDO ACEVEDO

It’s the end of the world, or at least it soon will be. A failed coup by the Republican Party and the destruction of Washington by terrorist attacks has resulted in a society that barely functions. The cops may still come, assuming you can find a working phone to call them, but with gas prices at $100 a gallon the chances are it will take them days rather than minutes to respond.

Say hello to Hank ZzyBnx, hit man and private eye with a hard on for Marylyn Monroe. I would also like you to meet The Blues Cat, a musician and lover of easy woman, who never stands still long enough to shake the road dust from his boots. These two unlikely heroes will be your guides through this dying clusterfuck of a world.Welcome to the surreal and not too distant future, folks. Here larger than life statues of Ronald Regan and 30ft alligators roaming the streets are considered the norm in most towns. This is a time when red blooded men lust after Hedda, the headless supermodel and transsexual former vice president, Dick Cheney wears heels and hangs out in dive bars.

This is not your average eBook. In fact it is more of a multimedia event. Grave Digger Bluesis liberally adorned with some stunning photography and original artwork, which my bargain basement eReader failed miserably to do justice to. If you have an iPad or one of those highfultin kindles with audio, you also get some cool blues tracks played by the author.

It is fair to say there is a lot going on here and that is a large part of the charm, but it’s also part of the problem. This is a work that contains two novellas, a coffee table book and a blues album. While the end result is pretty darn good, the narrative has a mind of its own and tosses the reader around like a drunken juggler. Just as you settle into the storyline of one protagonist you find yourself whisked off somewhere else. If you are lucky you will be taken back to where you left the other guy, but there are no guarantees. You could end up in a different place entirely and be presented with some song lyrics or a painting of a top heavy woman. I get it, this is art, but it’s also bloody annoying.
Jesse Sublett is a talented cat and he can certainly lay down some solid, gritty prose; Grave Digger Blues has that in spades. I can safely say that it is also he weirdest thing I have ever read (and I’ve read stuff by Ryan Sayles). But the big question here is does this ambitious project work? My answer would have to be yes, well, sort of. Hell I don’t know. I’m still struggling with the mental image of Dick Cheney in a strapless evening gown. You had better buy the book and figure this one out for yourselves.

 

Thank you very much, Chris Leek, for your honest, head scratching assessment. I’ve posted a few additional images below for readers. I hope everyone knows by now that the book is also available in a brand new PRINT edition. It’s a 6 x 9 inch soft cover with nearly 100 new images, only a few of which were included in the eBook editions. It’s available at BookPeople in Austin, also South Congress Books, and can be ordered here, by sending me a message, and also it can be ordered directly from Blurb.com. AND IN CASE YOU’VE BEEN IN A COMA LATELY, info about the ebook editions is: Grave Digger Blues, Blues Deluxe Edition for iPad, on iTunes. The Blues Deluxe Edition has the novella plus over 100 color images, some video, and an hour of original blues soundtrack and audio chapters. The Kindle Edition has the novella plus over 100 color images, but no other additional media.

Much more info and reviews of Grave Digger Blues can be viewed HERE.

Cheers,
Jesse

murder ballads, Jesse Sublett, crime fiction, noir

Iris was great until you got to know her.


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October Eve

grave digger blues, jesse sublett, noir

A sound like a box of rocks at the bottom of the world.

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STARS IN THE GUTTER

Mona Pitts, Jesse Sublett, noir fiction, Grave Digger Blues

She belonged to the stars now… but she’d always had stars in her hair…

A quick hello today to let you know that my short story “STARS IN HER HAIR” is now live at OutoftheGutteronline.com, a great crime fiction online zine. Thanks to Joe Clifford, a cool writer / musician, for editing it and posting it here.

Some of you may have read the illustrated version on my blog here, with the lovely Mona Pitts standing in as the lady astronaut of the story.

You may recognize Mona and her work if you have already read my new novella, Grave Digger Blues, which is bulging with sexy, wild, intriguing photos of Mona and by Mona, and also work by the great Ricardo Acevedo, and Todd V. Wolfson.

And you may have heard or maybe you’d like to hear the radio version which was performed by My Terrible Self and The Big Thorne ( a k a Thorne Dreyer ) on Rag Radio on Feb 1, 2013. You can enjoy that, plus my hour long interview, with 3 songs live in the studio, here.

GRAVE DIGGER BLUES is LIVE… buy it or download a sample at iTunes or Amazon. When? Now would be good.

Jesse Sublett, Grave Digger Blues, crime fiction, noir, pulp fiction, Denis Johnson

October Eve.

Cheers,

Jesse

 

 

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Hello Again

UPDATE: The link to the podcast of my hour on Rag Radio was broken, but now it’s fixed. Click here to hear it.

Dear Friends,

Sorry to be a pest, but one of the main aims of this morning’s previous post was to provide a link to the podcast of my interview with Rag Radio yesterday, Feb. 1, 2013, and I see that on the emailed version of the blog, the embedded code does not appear. Here is the direct link to it: Jesse Sublett on Rag Radio 2.1.13.

Also, if you are in the habit of only reading the email version of my blog, you are missing out on other features, too. You don’t get the music player, for one thing, or other links which always available on my blog page. So you might want to check that out….

Have a great Super Bowl Sunday.

Cheers,
Jesse

Jesse Sublett, inauguration 2013, Grave Digger Blues, Katy Perry, Barack Obama

How many Son House fans out there, like me, are also Katy Perry fans?

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GRAVE DIGGER BLUES MAY BE TOO WEIRD FOR YOU

 

"jesse sublett" jessesublett.com "denis johnson" "james ellroy" "crime fiction" noir + hardboiled "detective fiction" "crime fiction" + "post-apocalyptic"

Screen shot from the chapter “Heartbreaker” in the iPad version of Grave Digger Blues

THE BOOK IN QUESTION, BELOW, Can be had for only $.99 for all you bargain hunters, who don’t like wild visuals like the exotic women, walking catfish, atomic explosions, and stuff like that, included in the other more pricey editions ($5.99 for Blues Deluxe iPad and $4.99 for Kindle), or you don’t have a Kindle, iPad, iPhone or Blackberry, or MacBook, (all of which can be used to enjoy the Kindle edition)… anyway, the Bare Bones edition is just text, and you can read it on just about anything. Probably even most microwave ovens and digital thermostats.

Jesse Sublett, pulp fiction, ipad, enhanced ibook, ipad novella, noir, blues music, detective

GRAVE DIGGER BLUES, mind blowing pulp fiction

Smashwords 99-cent Bare Bones Edition.

Tempest Storm, TA

outofthepast03

outofthepast-somekindofman

out of the past poster

out of the past car

noir, blues, out of the past, jane greer, robert mitchum, grave digger blues, jesse sublett, iPad novella, ipad noir, multitouch novel

Jane Greer in Out of the Past. This aptly captures the notion that we are all doomed.

noir, blues, out of the past, jane greer, robert mitchum, grave digger blues, jesse sublett, iPad novella, ipad noir, multitouch novel

In the same vein, daddy-o.

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Nothing captures the aura of doom like a dome-light with a desperately hooked man and the lady in question.

noir, blues, out of the past, jane greer, robert mitchum, grave digger blues, jesse sublett, iPad novella, ipad noir, multitouch novel

Tempest Storm, noir, blues, out of the past, jane greer, robert mitchum, grave digger blues, jesse sublett, iPad novella, ipad noir, multitouch novel

The aptly named Tempest Storm

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DELTA BLUES ON THE RIVER OF DEATH

My favorite short comment recently: A Twitter follower of mine wrote: “This guy Jesse Sublett is nuts! But he’s my kind of nut.”

grave digger blues, jesse sublett, crime novels, crime writer, pulp fiction, noir, austin author

This wild man who crashed into your room, was he a minotaur? Huh? A Ford Taurus? No, man, this cat drove a Buick. (Picasso)

Since I last wrote to you about Grave Digger Blues, my new eBook crime novella for iPad and Kindle, a couple of cool new reviews have come in. Nice comments. See them below ( I’ve also added them to the Grave Digger Bluespage).

This is something really different. Grave Digger Blues is a departure from Jesse Sublett’s excellent books. The Martin Fender series takes the detective novel on a tour through the music demi monde by way of Austin. His memoir, Never the Same Again is as enthralling as any work of fiction and it’s real.  Now, he’s trying something new. Grave Digger Blues brings in Sci-fi, a bit of poetry, and art. It’s nothing less than an attempt to re-think the novel for the digital age and it’s really brave. Some sections work better than others, but it’s a good ride. I’m hoping that Sublett plans to take this further, he’s on to something and I want to see where it goes.  — Kathleen Maher, writer

IMG_0294B

The Blues Cat, his blues was epic, like a film noir in real time, all those hard luck songs about trains and cheap whisky, jail, no money and bad women like shrapnel from a bomb embedded in his soul.

Grave Digger Blues is perhaps too gentle a name for Jesse Sublett’s vision of the end of the world as we know it. To sing the blues, you have to have lived the blues. To write about hell on earth, you have to have lived it. Jesse has, and has emerged the stronger and more perceptive for it. Grave Digger Blues showcases his prowess as a writer, songwriter, performer, and graphic artist. I am jealous of precious few writers; Jesse Sublett is one of them. –Richard Zelade, author

grave digger blues, jesse sublett, crime novels, crime writer, pulp fiction, noir, austin author

Maybe it was revenge for all the things we’d done to her, but Mother Nature wasn’t herself anymore. Nobody was.

 

I really appreciate this kind of support. If any of you have read the book and enjoyed it, it would be really great if you went to the Grave Digger Blues listing on Amazon and also the listing in iTunes or the iBookstore and give it a rating and write a few lines about it. If you aren’t involved in this kind of publishing, you have no idea how essential it is to have that feedback in order to make any sales. It’s difficult to get the old school media to review eBooks, so eAuthors are very dependent on fans and friends for their positive feedback.

You may already be aware of the cameo appearances in my new new by walking catfish (an oversized mutation of an Asian species, Clarius batrachus,  a k a, walking catfish, which have undergone disturbing changes due to radiation in the environment in the last weeks before the end of the world), or I hope you are aware of that, anyway, but it’s possible you  might have missed this story about aggressive catfish which I found on NPR yesterday. I’m posting it here for your enlightenment. Ladies and gentlement, I present Krulwich’s nature blog, shining a well-deserved spotlighted PIGEON EATING CATFISH Or you can just go straight to video, below.

 

NPR’s Krulwich rightly compared the catfish to orca, the killer whale. Ever seen those big cute panda bear sea mammals come shooting up out of the surf onto the shore to grab and devour a cute little sea lion? It’s quite impressive. Also you may or may not be familiar with the fascinating snakehead catfish (Channa striata, and other related catfish), which can migrate across land from pond to pond. There was a scare about those beasts taking over in the US a couple of years ago. They’re also common in Asia. Strong fighters. Sport fishermen like tussling with them.

Snakeheads are sold in the U.S. both as food in Asian markets and as pets, being prized for their hardiness and aggressive habits.  Snakeheads in U.S. waters are generally assumed to be former pets whose owners tired of them and dumped them.

An interestingly put factoid here about the appetite of these boogers, expressed in a cost-benefit ratio from an article posted in 2002.

Snakeheads are sold in the U.S. both as food in Asian markets and as pets, being prized for their hardiness and aggressive habits. A six-inch snakehead that costs $7 will eventually eat up to $8 of goldfish a day.

 

grave digger blues, jesse sublett, crime novels, crime writer, pulp fiction, noir, austin author

The nation wrestles with the dark parts of her soul.

 

 

You may have noticed that I’ve begun blogging about the Secession craze sweeping the country lately, particularly the darker corners of the Old Confederacy, and the old Lone Star State has been leading the way. Leading the way to Clown Heaven, that is. I find this a very interesting story and I’ve been posting new blogs here and then uploading them to OpEdNews.com, a great progressive news site. You can link directly to those stories at OpEdNews and give them some props, tweet them, like them on Facebook, and various other forms of digital love. The first one was ESCAPE TO CIVIL WAR LAND, published Dec 9, and the second is SECESSION OBSESSION UNABATED.

jesse sublett, grave digger blues, noir, pulp fiction, enhanced iPad, ebook, ibook, kindle, denis johnson, james w. sallis

Manning the breastworks in the eWriting office.

 

 

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Working 24/7 to keep it weird.

 

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KING OF NOIR

"jesse sublett" "grave digger blues" pulpfiction, "jim thompson" "reed farrel coleman" "james ellroy" "jim thompson" "david goodis" jessesublett.com "michael connelly"

I’ve been thinking about pulp fiction.

In the 12 days since my new novel Grave Digger Blues went on sale, I’ve been thinking more about pulp fiction. Sometimes wherever I am this genre seems to reach out and grab me, like some random demons in waiting. Certainly I’ve some experiences of my own that were right out of a pulp fiction nightmare. I’ve written about them, and will probably write about them again. At other times, writing from the noir state of mind just helps me put things in perspective, in the same way that writing a blues song helps me communicate.

pulp fiction "james ellroy" "michael connelly" "denis johnson" "jesse sublett" "robert b. parker" "surrealism" "crime fiction" "detective fiction" "grave digger blues" ebook + ibook + "enhanced ibook" "jessesublett.com" austin "austin music scene"

A band called the Tin Can  44s contacted me and asked me if I could share some more scans of my vintage paperback novels to help them in their development of artwork for an upcoming release. and I’ve been doing some research that required digging through my book collection and files (but nothing new about that), so I fired up the scanner and flipped through some files and found this piece I wrote about Jim Thompson published by Texas Monthly in November 1999. The idea for the story came to me all at once. Novelist Jim Thompson, widely acknowledged as the “King of Noir,” lived in Texas for many years, and many of the rough and tumble experiences, including his stint as a teenage bell hop in Fort Worth during the Roaring Twenties and his work and fucking off in the oil fields of West Texas, became fodder for many of his classic pulp fiction novels. And here’s Texas, a state that’s always bragging about the great, famous people who are from here, yet this fact was rarely acknowledged and even more rarely–as in never–celebrated.

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So here’s that story, in its entirety, as published in Texas Monthly, with my own scans of my copies of the novels which I loaned the magazine for their illustrations back in 1999. (Oddly enough, there did not seem to be any hardboiled crime collectors in the offices of Texas Monthly at the time.)

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Commercial Announcement: If you haven’t done so yet, do yourself a favor and download a sample of Grave Digger Blues right now. The Blues Deluxe Edition for the iPad (with an hour of audio, including original blues music and audio chapters, over 100 photos and graphics, plus a video intro) is available on iTunes for $6.99, and the Kindle version (100+ photos and graphics and the same wild story) is available in the Amazon Kindle Store for $4.99. Much more info on the Grave Digger Blues page, with updates here and here.

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From the Kindle edition.

 

WILD TOWN: JIM THOMPSON’S FORT WORTH YEARS

Many of Jim Thompson’s noir novels drew on his days as a  bellhop at the old Hotel Texas, when Fort Worth was rowdy and the twenties were roaring.

 by Jesse Sublett

When Jim Thompson died in Los Angeles in 1977, his career was almost as dead as he was. Not one of his more than two dozen books was in print. His last important screen credit had been for Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, twenty years earlier. But during the past decade and a half, Thompson has blazed a comeback trail from oblivion to mainstream popularity and recognition as a  unique voice in American literature. Almost all of his novels are back in print, including the ultimate noir novel, The Killer Inside Me, one of the scariest ever written. Even Stephen King thinks so.

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Generations of filmmakers, from Orson Welles to Quentin Tarantino, have admired his work. Among his eight books that have been made into movies, the best known are  probably The Getaway, filmed in 1972, and The Grifters, which was nominated for four Academy awards, including best adapted screenplay, in 1990. Too bad Jim Thompson isn’t around today to enjoy his amazing comeback. In a perfect world he’d be the star  attraction at this month’s Texas Book Festival. At least half of Thompson’s books are set in Texas, and all of them are informed by his experiences here during his teens and twenties, between 1919 and 1935—times that were quite likely the worst of his life.

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"jesse sublett" "grave digger blues" pulpfiction, "jim thompson" "reed farrel coleman" "james ellroy" "jim thompson" "david goodis" jessesublett.com "michael connelly" Jim Thompson playing dead. By the 1970s, his reputation was face-down, too.

He was born James Myers Thompson in 1906 in Anadarko, Oklahoma, where his father, James Sherman Thompson, was the county sheriff. The following year, his father fled to Mexico and parts unknown for two and a half years after being implicated in a murky scandal involving financial improprieties. The family moved around Oklahoma and Nebraska for years before relocating to Fort Worth in 1919. For the next four years the senior Thompson dabbled in numerous schemes and ventures, including drilling  wildcat oil wells in West Texas, but by 1923 the family  was destitute. His son chronicled this chapter of his life in his first book, Now and on Earth: “Pop went broke and his was the irremediable brokeness of a man past fifty who has never worked for other people.”

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Things were booming in Texas, however, and sixteen-year-old Jim Thompson was able to get a job working nights as a bellhop at Fort Worth’s Hotel Texas, at 815 Main Street. Rubbing up against and running errands for gamblers, gangsters, con artists, rich oilmen, and lonely females in a big-city hotel gave Thompson plenty of  material for his future novels. One example is the swindle known as “the twenties” that figures in The Grifters; Roy Dillon (played by John Cusack in the film) uses sleight of hand to get $20 of change for a $1 bill. Thompson learned that trick and a slew of others at the Hotel Texas, a thinly disguised version of which is featured in numerous Thompson novels and is the focal point of all action in his hotel novels, like Wild Town and A Swell-Looking Babe.

Thompson also befriended notorious bank robber and gangster Airplane Red Brown, who made a big impression on him. Brown would serve as the inspiration for the protagonist or a major character in many of Thompson’s novels, including Airplane Red Cosgrove in Recoil, Allie Ivers in Bad Boy and Roughneck, and professional thief Doc McCoy in The Getaway.

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During the wild and woolly oil boom and Prohibition years, bellhops at places like the Hotel Texas didn’t just carry luggage for the guests; they also procured bootleg booze (Thompson used to carry a couple of extra half-pints in his socks), hookers, and drugs. A bellboy who was killed while scoring drugs for a guest is at the center of the short story “The Car in the Mexican Quarter,” one of Thompson’s few private-eye stories: “The Lansing is one of the biggest hotels in town, but I knew that it stood for a lot of dirty work from its employees. One suicide a year is plenty for a big hotel and the Lansing had one almost every month.”

Things have changed in Fort Worth since Thompson lived there. The Hotel Texas is now the Radisson Plaza, and the wildest thing that went on while I stayed there recently was a convention of Seventh Day Adventists. The fifteen-story luxury hotel was completed in 1922, and despite having been extensively remodeled inside, it still exudes a sense of grandeur and history. President John F. Kennedy spent his last night there, in room 850.

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To be fair, the Hotel Texas never had a lock on decadent behavior in downtown Fort Worth. It was located in a part of town known as Hell’s Half Acre—a concentration of brothels, saloons, gambling halls, and like enterprises that had catered to cowboys and cattlemen back when Fort Worth was a major stopover on the Chisholm Trail.

Thompson’s father used to regale him with stories about the infamous lawmen and outlaws he’d known, many of whom spent time sampling the delights of places like Two Minnies, where customers in the downstairs bar could view the naked prostitutes prancing about upstairs through the glass ceiling. Two Minnies was long gone, but there were still plenty of holdovers from the days of Hell’s Half Acre when Jim Thompson walked these redbrick streets. In his autobiographical novel Bad Boy, Thompson recounts a day he spent with his Grandfather Myers in downtown pool halls, arcades, and burlesque houses:

. . . following lunch we went to a penny arcade.

Pa had brought the bottle with him, and he became quite rambunctious when ‘A Night With a Paris Cutie’ did not come up to his expectations. He caned the machine.

Great story material, but working seven nights a week while attending Polytechnic High School devastated Thompson’s health. Whiskey, cocaine, and three packs of cigarettes a day kept him going. After two years of this hellish routine, he suffered a total physical and mental breakdown at the age of eighteen.

In more than a few Thompson novels the protagonist’s spiral of doom and dissolution is propelled by an Oedipal streak a mile wide. It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to guess that Thompson wrote to get back at his father for his various failings, not to mention the torturous routine he himself had to endure to support his family. He created numerous wicked caricatures of his father. Both The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280 are narrated by a slow-talking, joke-spinning West Texas deputy sheriff who is actually a serial murderer.

A bleak, menacing backdrop is a staple of noir fiction, but Thompson’s portrayals of Texas and Texans are so bleak and bitter that they veer into the category of surreal cartoons. As he explains in Bad Boy:

. . . Texans were distasteful—or so I soon convinced myself. I studied their mannerisms and mores, and in my twisted outlook they became Mongoloid monsters. I saw all their bad and no offsetting good.

Texans made boast of their insularism; they bragged about such things as never having been outside the state or the fact that the only book in their house was the Bible.

Interestingly, as Thompson’s narratives move westward, his tone mellows considerably. In Texas by the Tail, written in the mid-sixties, his con man narrator berates Houston for, among other things, its weather and its racial politics. He definitely favors Fort Worth over Dallas:

Neighboring Dallas started an evil rumor about its rival. Fort Worth was so rustic, the libel ran, that panthers prowled the streets at high noon. Fort Worth promptly dubbed itself the Panther City, and declared the lie was gospel truth.

Certainly, there were panthers in the streets. Kiddies had to have somethin’ to play with, didn’t they? Aside from that, the cats performed a highly necessary service. Every morning they were herded down to the east-flowing Trinity River, there to drain their bladders into the stream which provided Dallas’ water supply.

Thompson’s own sympathies ran along similar geographic lines. In 1926, after recuperating from his first stint as a bellhop, he hitchhiked to West Texas on a strange pilgrimage that took him to the very same oil fields and towns where his father had gambled away his family’s future. He spent the next two years laboring at backbreaking, dangerous jobs in the oil fields, working in gambling joints, briefly running a diner, and hoboing.

In Bad Boy, Thompson says that becoming a writer was foremost in his mind when he lit out for West Texas. “Oil Field Vignettes,” the first of several pieces he wrote while in the oil fields, was published in Fort Worth—based Texas Monthly magazine (no relation) in 1929. Ironically, the oil business—which had broken his father—provided the means for Thompson to reinvent himself.

It had already transformed Cowtown into Fort Worth, a major hub of the Texas oil business. The black gold that bubbled beneath their ranchland made West Texas cattlemen like Burk Burnett and W. T. Waggoner—who weren’t exactly poor before—into wealthy oil barons who funneled a great deal of their prosperity through the city that had always been good to them. Jim Thompson undoubtedly encountered many of these men while working as a bellhop, and certainly breathed construction dust as monuments to their success shot skyward: the W. T. Waggoner Building (810 Houston), oilman R. O. Dulaney’s cool art deco Sinclair Building (106 West Fifth), the Petroleum Building (also built by Dulaney, 611 Throckmorton), and others, all built between the teens and the early thirties.

While train travel isn’t a frequent fixture in Thompson’s novels, most of the grifters, gamblers, and other fun-seekers he hopped bells for came into Fort Worth via the old train stations that are just a short walk from downtown: the Santa Fe Depot (1601 Jones) and the Texas and Pacific Terminal (West Lancaster Street between Houston and Throckmorton). The former, built in 1899, evokes old Cowtown more than it does the Roaring Twenties, while the latter is a magnificent 1930 art deco structure that conjures up fedoras and big-city film noir. (To take a guided walking tour called “Hell’s Half Acre to Sundance Square,” contact Bill Campbell at 817-253-5909 or dwcjr@swbell.net. A “Downtown Fort Worth Walking Tour” brochure is available from the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, 817-336-8791.)

In 1931 Thompson married Alberta Hesse, and before long he had found a job at the Worth Hotel (at Seventh and Taylor, where the expanded Fort Worth Club stands today). Thompson was working at the Worth when Will Rogers gave him a $50 tip for retrieving his car. Despite occasional nights like that and the fact that he was working 84 hours a week with no days off, he still wasn’t making enough to get by. Things only got worse as the Thompson household expanded to include three children born between 1932 and 1938.

In a bold stroke that, in hindsight, seems to have been preordained, Thompson turned from writing for oil trade journals to writing for true-crime magazines. A gentle, well-mannered soul who loathed violence and bloodshed, he churned out lurid stories for publications like True Detective, Daring Detective, and Startling Detective, managing to eke out a living and at the same time developing many of the stylistic techniques he would employ in his later novels. In 1935, lured by a lucrative offer from a true-crime magazine, Thompson moved to Oklahoma, ending the strange, bittersweet, and often brutal saga of his Texas years.

Once Thompson got to Oklahoma, his crime-magazine job suddenly fizzled out. In 1936 he obtained a position with the Oklahoma Federal Writers’ Project and not long thereafter was appointed its director. Also actively involved in left-wing politics, he gained many influential colleagues and admirers, including Woody Guthrie, who essentially agented Thompson’s book deal for Now and on Earth, published by Modern Age in 1942. A sort of semi-autobiographical protest novel—cum—psychological study, it met with mostly great reviews but lackluster sales. His first crime novel, however, Nothing More Than Murder (1949), struck a nerve with critics and the reading public alike.

As chronicled in Robert Polito’s excellent 1995 biography, Savage Art, Thompson’s writing career is the stuff of hard-boiled literary legends: He wrote like a demon between 1952 and 1954, turning out twelve explosive novels for Lion Books. Although he never really fit into the neat category of mystery or crime fiction, the trajectory of his life from 1942 until his death in 1977 was eerily similar to that of noir giants like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, who also emerged from the ghetto of pulp fiction into mainstream American culture. Such men often wrote for two main reasons: because they needed the money and because if they didn’t write, their head would explode. They also tended to live hard and drink hard, and when they were hot, they were on fire.

One night during a recent stay at the Radisson Plaza, I lay in my bed sleepless, thinking about young Jim Thompson toiling up and down these halls where the Roaring Twenties howled with a uniquely Texan decadence, leaving a young man with a hangover that would last a lifetime. If these walls could talk, I wondered, what would they say? Maybe they would say some of the things that are said in the pages of Jim Thompson’s books. In Bad Boy he wrote:

   It was a weird, wild and wonderful world that I had walked into, the luxury hotel life of the Roaring Twenties. . . . a world whose one rule was that you did nothing you could not get away with.

   There was no pity in that world. . . .

At the end of Thompson’s life his declining health made it all but impossible to write—and no one seemed interested in his style of writing anyway, since all his books were out of print. Shortly before he died he told his wife, “Just you wait. I’ll be famous after I’m dead about ten years.” Wherever he is now, Jim Thompson must be enjoying a hell of a last laugh.[The End]

 

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Digging deeper & deeper

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Photo Ricardo Acevedo

UPDATE AT 10 PM Monday: GRAVE DIGGER BLUES, the upgraded Kindle edition, is now live on Amazon. That means you can read it and look at 100+ groovy pictures on your Kindle, iPhone, etc. Click here to order. It’s not your average eBook with eText and an eGeneric plot. Here’s a couple of screen shots. (The other screen shots on this post are from the iPad edition, which also has music and some video.)

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From the Kindle edition.

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From the Kindle edition.

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The Blues Cat has women trouble, Kindle edition on the iPhone.

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Grave Digger Blues calling on my iPhone.

It started with an idea. A phrase, actually: “The last detective at the end of the world.” So, I had a title, and some images. That was back in January, when I did a reading at the quarterly art event known as Tertulia, held at the Continental Club Gallery, hosted by Gretchen Harries Graham, Robert Asher Kraft, and Kellie Sansome. The theme was “The End of the World (As We Know It).” I wrote a 1400 word short story for the gig, narrated from the point of view of Hank Zzybnx, a damaged vet from the last war in Afghanistan (or, as they commonly refer to it in the near future, Murderstan).

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Hank Zzybnx, The Last Detective at the End of the World

Hank returns to civilian life troubled not so much by his memories of killing and destruction, but by the huge gaps in his memory–gaps that were put there by the same men who trained him to do his job. Hank was in psy-ops, a specialized assassin, programmed to kill in close quarters, black ops, grim chores assigned to a special section of the military known as “the messenger service.” When one of these guys has a message for you, you don’t want to be home, see? So now Hank is back in civilian life, in the last weeks before the planet implodes and sinks into its own rotting juices.

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A scene from “Heartbreaker” in Grave Digger Blues. Bob the Barber’s “Things to do” list goes up in flames.

Nothing works. The power grid is shot. Digital technology is useless because of the high radiation. The only paying gigs left for private detectives are murder for hire and worse things. Hank works a lot. Sleeps rarely, and never dreams. He’s haunted by the benevolent ghost of Marilyn Monroe. A surrealist artist who goes by a different name every day of the week is his assistant. To keep things simple, Hank calls him Alias.

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The author is not The Blues Cat. But The Blues Cat is on his speed dial.

Those are a few details about our hero, Hank Zzybnx. The other protagonist of the book is a doomed jazz musician they call The Blues Cat. He plays a different dive every night of the week, 365 days a year. A 300 pound thug named The Muffin Man follows him wherever he goes. The Cat is rarely without a female admirer in tow, but there have been at least nine attempts on his life by ex-lovers, and at least twice that many by the embittered spouses of some of those lovers. This is one musician who never runs short of reasons to sing the blues.

Grave Digger Blues will hot-wire your iPad, see??

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The FIRST surrealist/blues/pulpfiction iPad novella.

AND NEXT, the KINDLE version with 100 + photos, drawings, crazy visuals, representing the monumental contributions of leading Austin avant garde photographers/models Mona Pitts and Ricardo Acevedo. (Author photo by Todd V. Wolfson). We are lucky to be so successful in our commitment to weirdness. When these friends of mine got involved in project, that’s when it really started to get real. Working with their images (and have I mentioned this? The book has over 100 photos, drawings, collages and other media), helped push the project forward, turning a dream into a crazy dreamlike state of reality. In other words, one story followed the other, and it became a serial novel.

Today, Monday, November 26, 2012, I finished formatting these 102 complex and strange small masterpieces by these artists (as well as a few modest scribblings by My Terrible Self, and some of my iPhone shots and collages), and delivered same to the Amazon Kindle store. So, with any luck, by Tuesday, November 27, say noonish, you should be able to drive down to your Amazon Kindle Drive-In Liquor Store & XXL Condom Dispensary (OK, or just open it on your digital device) download a version for only $4.99 that is digestible on your Kindle, Kindle Fire (color photos will be in glorious and gory COLOR), iPhone, iPad, whatever. The iPad version with its 30 minutes of original scary blues songs and 30 minutes of audio chapters (with soundtrack collaboration between My Terrible Self and Johnny Reno) is live and moving products at your local iTunes Warehouse and Rogue Elephant Sanctuary.

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Suzee the Madam is based on someone I used to know.

Grave Digger Blues is a dark fever dream that’s part noir, part stand-up. Sublett’s writing is as apt to scare the hell out of you as it is to make you die laughing.” –REED FARREL COLEMAN, three-time Shamus Award-winning author of Gun Church

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Surrealism = what she says when you say, “Penny for your thoughts, Hank?”

To wrap up, it’s a dangerous world we live in, and you can either pull the covers over your head and cry about it, or you can get out there and put a smile on your face and charge forward and keep the rotten, greedy villains from taking over, mulching paradise and grinding up the last good things on the planet just so they can have a few more zillion dollars to spend.

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Casper Gutman, a k a, The Fat Man, as inhabited by Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon. More sophisticated than Mitt Romney, but less cutthroat and monomaniacal.

Yes, it’s a scary world–we just had an election where the choice was either the good guy or some stalk of overcooked brussel sprouts with the personality of a wet Kleenex and the moral spine of … well, no spine at all, just money, stuffed into overseas accounts. Is that noir enough for you? The other bad guys were a bunch of stooges from Central Casting, and if brains and soul sold for fifty cents a pound these guys couldn’t pitch enough pennies together to buy a bag of Doritos.

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In the future, the old GOP inner circle has fallen on hard times. Weird quirks of personality, previously hidden, emerge in a rather gaudy fashion.

These people would drill for oil in their own grandma’s kitchen or her lap if there was a barrel of oil to be harvested. They’d promise you any war any time, as long as they or their kids didn’t have to go risk their asses in it. Is that noir enough for you? Lots more where that came from.

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Newt Gingrich was one of the right wingers left out in the cold after the great Republican coup, now working as a security guard for WalMart and strangling puppies in the circus.

Recently some follower on Twitter responded to one of my political tweets saying, “Oh, dude, chill out. Don’t go there. The election is over. Republicans buy books and music, too.” I replied, “Hey man, I’m ALWAYS there. I was born chill. I don’t care if Republicans buy my art or not. I kiss ass to nobody.”

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At JesseSublett.com, we work 24/7 to keep it surreal.

More Grave Digger Blues updates coming. Stay tuned, download, remain cool, dig the blues.

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DIG THIS GRAVE DIGGER BLUES

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GRAVE DIGGER BLUES out now for iPad also Kindle, iPhone, etc.

UPDATE FROM THE ROAD:

“Grave Digger Blues is a dark fever dream that’s part noir, part stand-up. Sublett’s writing is as apt to scare the hell out of you as it is to make you die laughing.”
Reed Farrel Coleman, three-time Shamus Award-winning author of Gun Church

Grave Digger Blues, my new noir novella, is now available as an iBook for the Apple iPad–with original music video, graphics–and also available in eBook form (text only) for Kindle, iPhone, etc. You can download the iPad version from iTunes for $6.99 or the Kindle version from Amazon (text only) for $4.99.

I’ve created a new page for Grave Digger Blues, here, with more details, including a whole bunch of the great, supercool images by ace Austin art photographers Mona Pitts and Ricardo Acevedo, like these two below:

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screen shot of Grave Digger Blues, photo by Mona Pitts

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Grave Digger Blues, photo by Ricardo Acevedo

So I hope you will check it out and dig it. I’ve recorded a little video clip especially for the occasion of the book going live on iTunes, and as time allows, I hope to plan some special events, like gigs, etc., to help spread the word.

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CLICK BELOW to hear “Grave Digger Blues”, the theme of this novella.

CLICK HERE: Grave Digger Blues, the song, my personal Grave Digger Blues message to you.

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De official photo of de author, Jesse Sublett, by Todd V. Wolfson

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