WEIRDLAND: The Black-Eyed Blonde, Heartbreak and Vine, Broken City, True Detective

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Black-Eyed Blonde, Heartbreak and Vine, Broken City, True Detective

“It was one of those summer Tuesday afternoons when you begin to wonder if the earth has stopped revolving. The telephone on my desk had the look of something that knows it’s being watched. Traffic trickled by in the street below, and there were a few pedestrians, too, men in hats going nowhere.” So begins The Black-Eyed Blonde, a new novel featuring Philip Marlowe. Soon he is tangling with one of Bay City’s richest families and developing a singular appreciation for how far they will go to protect their fortune.

"Despite Robert B. Parker’s lengthy experience in the PI genre, his sequel to The Big Sleep, Perchance to Dream, pales in comparison with Black’s pitch-perfect recreation of the character and his time and place. As for the language, Black nails Chandler’s creative and memorable similes and metaphors... While the mystery is well-plotted, Black elevates it beyond mere thoughtful homage with a plausible injection of emotion in his wounded lead." —Publishers Weekly

"Somewhere Raymond Chandler is smiling, because this is a beautifully rendered hardboiled novel that echoes Chandler's melancholy at perfect pitch. The story is great, but what amazed me is how John Banville caught the cumulative effect Chandler's prose had on readers. It's hard to quantify, but it's also what separated the Marlowe novels from the general run of noir. The sadness runs deep. I loved this book. It was like having an old friend, one you assumed was dead, walk into the room. Kind of like Terry Lennox, hiding behind those drapes." —Stephen King

"Hollywood has always been willing to invite noirists - Raymond Chandler, Horace McCoy, James M. Cain, Elmore Leonard or Donald Westlake - into their midst, co-opting their talent in the hope of enhancing studio profits. Some hardboilers have been able to adapt to the strictures of scriptwriting and the Hollywood lifestyle, while others have been destroyed by it. In earlier days those best able to adapt to the industry’s demands often came from the deadline-oriented world of journalism (Ben Hecht, John Bright, James M. Cain, Niven Busch). Significantly, the original film script-story, which has since become a Hollywood staple, was only to become a full-fledged commodity after World War II. Hollywood’s hostile treatment of screenwriters is legendary. Because they were in a position to disseminate ideas, screenwriters were distrusted, not allowed to control their product, and constantly fired by studios. Nevertheless, noir screenwriters have recently gained a more respectable position, some becoming, at least in the imagination of film aficionados, figures of romance. Yet however one regards the process, screenwriting remains an art that many novelists are unable to execute, and that many producers and directors are unable to appreciate.

Robert Towne may be a formidable screenwriter, but he is not a formidable novelist. In fact, he is not a novelist at all. Likewise, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett were not great screenwriters. No wonder Ernest Hemingway and, for many years, James Ellroy, would have nothing to do with Hollywood. In the hierarchy of writers, the novelist is considered the superior creature, but that quickly changes when he or she begins to work in an industry that caters to the lowest common denominator.

The image of screenwriters as grovelling hacks willing to sell themselves at any price was always a convenient one for Hollywood to perpetuate. But in 1939, prior to the formation of the Writers Guild, studios were hiring junior writers for $85 a week or less and also had them write scripts on speculation. These days, when much of Tinseltown proper is a semi-slum, writers are likely to be freelancers who, as in Bruce Wagner’s novel Force Majeure, spend their time hustling to get someone even to read their scripts. Likewise, few writers are tied to studio payrolls. This is partly to keep writers on a short leash, and partly because, compared to earlier eras, fewer Hollywood films are being made — 477 films were made in 1940, but, with the growing popularity of TV, the number dropped to 154 in 1960, rising again with the advent of the video age in the early 1990s. With Hollywood not quite so desperate for stories and original material, Tinseltown remains a fool’s paradise, in which the market dictates taste, and monetary reward has become greater than ever... a specific aspect of transnational corporate power, part American Dream and part American Nightmare. As A.P. Giannini of the Bank of America, one of the industry’s prime founders, prophetically observed during the early days of Hollywood, ‘Those who control the cinema can control the thought of the world.’ Writers should be forewarned; engage with Hollywood at your peril. -"Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood" (2014) by Woody Haut
Source: www.280steps.com

“The only thing better than getting out of the damn city is going back to it.” —Paul Andrews (Kyle Chandler) in "Broken City" (2013)

The detective begins to wise up after something bad happens to Valliant's campaign manager (Kyle Chandler), and like all the best noir protagonists, he doesn't like being played for a fool. Billy would rather blow up his own life than let the mayor's apparently corrupt secret deal succeed.

If Broken City is more notable for attitude and ambiance than plotting, it does pose some lingering mysteries. But these may have less to do with Brian Tucker's script than with last-minute edits: While the conflict between Billy and the mayor resolves neatly — too neatly, in fact — other characters and storylines just evaporate. It might take a smarter gumshoe than Billy Taggart to uncover everything that was originally supposed to happen in Broken City. Source: www.npr.org

To state the obvious: while the male detectives of “True Detective” are avenging women and children, and bro-bonding over “crazy pussy,” every live woman they meet is paper-thin. Wives and sluts and daughters —none with any interior life. Instead of an ensemble, “True Detective” has just two characters, the family-man adulterer Marty (a reasonably interesting asshole, in Harrelson’s strong performance), and Rust, who is a macho fantasy straight out of Carlos Castaneda. A sinewy weirdo with a tragic past, Rust delivers arias of philosophy, a mash-up of Nietzsche, Lovecraft, and the nihilist horror writer Thomas Ligotti. McConaughey gives an exciting performance (“a rubber band wrapped tight around a razor blade”), but his rap is premium baloney. Marty’s wife, Maggie—played by Michelle Monaghan, she is the only prominent female character on the show—is an utter nothing-burger, all fuming prettiness with zero insides. Source: www.newyorker.com

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