Sunday, December 12, 2010


noir wreathWell, tis the season to be merry. The season of peace and goodwill toward all things. And what could be more merry and peaceful than noir stocking stuffers? So if you're looking for some last minute items, check out some of these below:



Tapping the Source by Kem Nunn – surf noir at its best – Small tTapping the Sourceown hick comes to Huntington Beach, CA ("surf city"), looking for his missing sister and gets the proverbial more-than-he-bargained-for. This ain't Frankie and Annette's beach party or Brian Wilson's (and the Beachboys) Surfin' USA...
Down There (Shoot the Piano Player) by David Goodis – from the “poet of losers,” his best book in my opinion, though I know others would disagree. Like many of Goodis' protagonists, Eddie cannot escape his past. Or his present.
Raymond Chandler – just about any of the novels; you might try a later one like "The Long Goodbye." Another trip through Chandler's mean streets. Marlowe's a little older. A little wiser, maybe. I don't think this book was very well received when it first came out. I think it's been reassessed in later years – I like it. Hate the movie based on it, though it does have some good points. Most especially the High Tower Apartments, where I once looked for an apartment. Trippy place.
The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham – not really noir, but if I had to pick a favorite book this would be it. Like with everything, some love it, some hate it. A great story of a man's quest for inner peace and the meaning of life. Sounds silly these days, what with such things as “Eat, Pray, Barf” and the like. How do we – how should we – lead our lives?
Ask the Dust by John Fante – For the longest time John Fante had been mostly forgotten, remembered only by a few who thought of him as our own. It's like having a favorite band that few people know, then one day they hit it big. You feel like you've lost something. About a  decade or so ago he was rediscovered and the rest, as they say, is history. I know some people hate this book, where little happens. But to me it speaks volumes of a struggling writer's life in a Los Angeles that is no more, or maybe it is and we just don't quite see it anymore.


Double IndemnitDouble Indemnity Film Noir 2nd copy -- some words removed_edited-1y – The ultimate example of film noir. It's got it all the elements a noir should have: shadows, rain, greed, downfall by one's own Achilles' heel. A great femme fatale in Barbara Stanwyck. And, of course it's in glorious black and white. What more could you ask for on a cold, rainy winter night? 
Ghost World – One of the few movies that, sooner or later, I try to steer almost everyone I know toward. Starring Thora Birch, Steve Buscemi and a pre-superstar Scarlett Johansson. Not a horror story, which some people seem to infer because of the title. But a story of people, young and middle aged, lost and trying to make their way in a "foreign" world – the world you see right outside your window. Touching. Poignant. And definitely worth a watch, though maybe wait till after Christmas...unless you want to join the ranks of those in Winter Blues and Depression Club.
Kiss Me Deadly – The search for the Great Whatsit by Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. Hammer makes Chandler's Marlowe, Hammett's Spade and most modern PIs look like Pee Wee Herman by comparison. And the movie Hammer doesn't touch the prose Hammer in that regard. Spillane didn't name him Hammer for nothing. A great noir movie. And it always amazes me on the Dish online program guide that this movie only gets a two star (out of four) rating when crap like those true classics that will surely stand the test of time "Orphan" and "The Crazies" get more. One of the best examples of where the movie definitely improves on the book.
In a Lonely Place – Some people classify this movie as noir; I'm not sure it fully meets the criteria. Nonetheless, it's my second favorite movie of any after "Casablanca". One is romantic idealism (with some cynicism tossed in for good effect); the other is pure cynicism. You decide which is which. "In a Lonely Place" is another movie that, in my opinion, greatly improves on the book, though I know this is sacrilege to some Dorothy Hughes fans. But, without giving too much away, the movie is more ambiguous and with a much more ironic ending, while the book is more a more straight forward story of a killer. From Bogart's character in the film: "I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me."
Sherman's March – Well, it takes a certain kind of person to enjoy this – I guess I'm the kind. Ross McElwee set out to make a documentary about Sherman's march through Georgia during the Civil War. It turns out to be almost nothing about that, but instead is a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride through the modern South with a man looking for, well, I guess himself – as well as a girlfriend. And Burt Reynolds.... And so much more.


Leonard Cohen – A lot of his songs are much the musical equivalent of David Goodis novels. Try especially the "I'm Your Man" or "The Future" albums for a nice look at the dark side of things.
Noisettes "Wild Young Hearts" album – Well, a bit of a departurenoisettes here. Definitely not noirish in any way. Newish group, but they remind me of the "girl groups" of the early Sixties updated to today. Try especially the songs "Wild Young Hearts" and "Never Forget You." Bouncy fun.
Ruby Friedman Orchestra – relatively new also, and unfortunately some of my favorite songs by them/her are not easily available, though you can hear them on the web – like "Burning Skies" and "Hang Around". Still there are things to download at iTunes or Amazon. If you like alt sounds check her out.
The Dark Shadows (Brigitte Handley's alt rock group, not the TV show) – I particularly like the songs "Invisible" and "Lament of a Lost Soul". The latter might have worked good in "Ghost World," if the song had been around then. And the former is damned hard to find – but a good find. It's out on a CD...but you have to order it from Australia. Might hear it on Rodney on the Roq though.
Smithereens Christmas – Pat DiNizio, lead singer-songwriter wrote a beautiful song called "In a Lonely Place" based on the movie and including the above Bogart lines from the 80s (though they're still around) punk group qualifies as noir. But this is them doing their versions of Christmas songs. Hey, they did it before Dylan. -- But if you want their best album get "Especially for You."
On a side note, I have a story about Pat DiNizio, the lead singer/main songwriter of the Smithereens.
I love old movies. And, as stated above, one of my favorites is "In a Lonely Place" with Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. On the Smithereens' album "Especially for You," from the mid-1980s, they had a song called "In a Lonely Place," and even copped some lyrics from some of the movie's dialogue. And I always liked the song as well as the movie.
So, I was looking to buy a vintage poster from that movie. To make a long story short, I did. And who did I end up buying one from but Pat DiNizio. So when I look at that poster or hear that song I always think: I wonder if DiNizio was looking at the very same poster and being inspired by it when he wrote the lyrics to that song? Great poster. Great song. Great album...if you like that punky-new wavy thing from the 80s.
Have a
Merry Noir Christmas
and a
Punk New Year!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Deadly Ink 2010 Short Story Collection…

Poison Heart -- BOOK COVER -- 10-10 -- from Barnes and Noble…is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Includes my story “Poison Heart,” plus stories by J.F. Benedetto, Mitzi Flye, Barb Goffman, Carole Hall, Erika Hoffman, Rosemary Olson, Judith R. O’Sullivan, John Reisinger, T.S. Rider, Charles Schaeffer, D.I. Telbat, Elise Warner, Alice M. Weyers, Lina Zeldovich.

Proceeds go to the Christopher Reeve Foundation.  Good stories for a good cause.  Get yours now.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Four Rs – Reading, Writing, Rithmetic and Reckoning

Recently, several of the authors and one of the of the editors of Murder in La-La Land trekked up Highway 126 to the Blanchard Library in Santa Paula, CA. We had a good turnout and everybody there was wonderful. As nice as can be. Interested. Attentive. The library itself, a former supermarket, is a cavernous building – a giant airplane hangar or soundstage with tons of books. The kind of place that I enjoy just wandering around for hours.

But there was (is) one problem: Except for the people who came to see us, this huge building was empty. Empty! Not a single person there wandering the stacks. Nobody at the tables bent over books. Nobody on the computers. Nobody even talking loud so the librarian had to shush them. Granted, we live in the age of the internet, but people still go to libraries, don't they? And isn't the library still a place to go for socializing, if not for learning? Where I live they are going to be opening a new library and I can't wait, even though I'm addicted to the internet as much as anybody else.

I fear that this is merely a symptom of a post-literate society. After all, what are people looking up on the net, Shakespeare? Or is it only Much Ado About Poontang? Or spending endless hours on Facebook, just diddling around with the all important updates about what they had for breakfast and, even more importantly, if they had a good bowel movement.

Maybe because it was summer. Maybe because it was a weekend afternoon. But something tells me that's the not the case. We all know that reading and readership is declining and ageing. Out of a crowd of about twenty-five people, maybe three were under the age of fifty. That is scary.

It seems to me that the more info we have the less people seem to be interested in it – at least in info that means anything.

And how many people in our society are functionally illiterate? I've seen figures of up to a third of the population cannot read a medicine bottle. How many lawyers can't name the Supreme Court justices? How many teachers don't know even the basics of their subjects and can't teach? How many people are dropping out of school or graduating, but still barely functional? How many people can barely see beyond the tip of their typing fingers?

Hell yes, I want readers. And I want a country where people are literate, which doesn't mean they have to read Proust or Joyce or, God forbid, "Gravity's Rainbow". I'm no snob, hell I write mysteries for the most part, with some serious fiction thrown in for good measure.

The Blanchard Library is a veritable supermarket of books, but still the audience is going hungry, filling their minds with Facebook and Four Square updates, living Second Lives instead of their first (and real) lives.

This does not bode well for us as authors or the country as a whole. Frankly, it scares the shit out of me! Important Facebook update to come.


Sunday, July 11, 2010



It was a hot afternoon, and I can still remember the smell of honeysuckle all along that street. How could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle?
                               --James M. Cain/Raymond Chandler/Billy Wilder
                                          --Double Indemnity

clip_image002Does murder really smell like honeysuckle? Well, I'm not so sure about that, though that is one of my favorite lines from film noir. But we did go to the Motion Picture Academy the other night to see Double Indemnity on the really big screen as part of Oscar Noir: 1940s Writing Nominees from Hollywood’s Dark Side festival –

And if one had to show a Martian the ultimate film noir for my money it would be D.I. It has everything a good noir should have: great, shadowy black and white photography (I know, I know, there are color noirs), a femme fatale, a man who gets sucked into a vortex of lust and murder and people who are just utterly despicable – just the kind of people you want to spend a couple hours of your life with, at least onscreen. I could write pages on how much I like this movie and film noir, but there's not much that hasn't already been said and this blog is really about the screening and the festival. But if you want to see a great film noir, check out Double Indemnity.

And there's certainly nothing like seeing a movie on not the big screen, but the huge screen – the Silver Screen. I noticed things that I'd never noticed before, though one of them was pointed out before the screening: Raymond Chandler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Billy Wilder, based on James M. Cain's novel, has a recently clip_image004discovered cameo. After Fred MacMurray leaves Edward G. Robinson's (Barton Keyes's) office, Chandler is seen sitting on a chair in the hall. A rare appearance for the reclusive author.

One of the drawbacks to seeing an old movie like this today is that audiences have become jaded and cynical. When I watch a film noir in the dark of my home I take it seriously, unless it's just so bad that you can't help but laugh, in which case I would probably turn it off. But with an audience, even an audience of noir lovers, there is laughter, sometimes at appropriate places, sometimes not. And the laughter takes one – at least this one – out of the moment and out of the mood of the film, especially a serious film. That said, there's also something enjoyable about watching a great old movie with an audience, even a movie I've seen fifty times, if not more.

Before the movie, Miriam Nelson (Franklin) spoke. She played Edward G. Robinson's secretary. Screenwriter Nicholas Meyer introduced the movie. And Edward G. Robinson's granddaughter and great grandson were there in the audience.

After the movie, Laurie MacMurray Gerber, Fred's daughter, was interviewed. She said that if you take a look at the original drawings for Captain Marvel you might notice a similarity to Fred MacMurray as the artists based Marvel on her dad. She also talked about how she'd never seen her dad kiss another woman, other than her mom, actress June Haver, except when she watched Double Indemnity for the first time.

If you love film noir, there's still time to see several great movies on the really big screen. Check it out at:

                                                * * *

On another, but related subject, the security at the Academy Theatre sucked. I can sort of understand going through security at an airport though that, along with several other things, has made flying a nightmare. I'm not scared of terrorists or the actual flying – never have been – but I am scared of airport security which makes me insecure about my rights and freedom. But I digress. When we got to the Academy Theatre we had to empty our pockets into little plastic trays as one does at the airport, a security guard rifled my wife's purse. What were we going to do, blow up the ten foot tall golden Oscars at the front of the auditorium?

Since we moved out to a more rural area outside of L.A. a few years ago and have become sort of hermits/recluses we haven't been going to screenings as we used to. Never had to go through security. Of course that was awhile back and they were industry screenings. The Double Indemnity showing was open to the public so maybe that's the difference. Because if it isn't and you have to go through thclip_image006is humiliating process every time you go to a screening, what a nightmare our society has become. Hell, even if it is a public screen, how sad that this is what we've become. And I do find it humiliating to be searched and prodded as if we're all badguys.clip_image008

Can't wait for the full body scans and breast groping to begin.

The Salahis can get into an affair with President Obama, but we have to go through this humiliation to watch a 60 year old movie?  Enough already!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Makes Its Debut at Los Angeles Times Book Festival in April

Murder in La La Land -- cover -- from Top Facebook pg

As noted author Sue Ann Jaffarian says: "In Los Angeles even murder can be trendy. So settle in and enjoy your trip through La La Land. You may never want to visit us again–"

The bright orange cover hides the book's heart of darkness and murder in the City of the Angels.

Diversity is the name of the game in L.A. Diversity in population. Diversity in food. Even diversity in murder as in "Murder in La-La Land".

This anthology, with twelve stories by a variety of authors, made its debut at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival at UCLA at the end of April:

Its next appearance was at the May SinC-LA meeting where Gabriella Vasquez and I read from our stories. But the official release of the book is on May 22nd at the launch party at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood:

Saturday, May 22, 2010

5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The Mystery Bookstore

1036-C Broxton Avenue

Westwood, California

The book, edited by well-known mystery writers Naomi Hirahara, Eric Stone and Juliet Blackwell, with a forward by Michael Mallory, features twelve stories of murder, mayhem and transitive vampires – whatever the hell they are – in the loony city that we call La La Land.

From the book's cover: "Los Angeles, the City of Angels, home to Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Where everyone is auditioning for a part, and where lies and deceit come veiled as glitz and glamour. Join us, if you dare: view a vampire movie in our Forever Hollywood Cemetery, or take a walk along the concrete banks of the L.A. River. But watch your step. Murder brews within the micro-cosmic homeless communes that call it home and sometimes riffs on melodic waves from the jazz street musicians just down the block. Twelve stories of mystery, murder, and mayhem, from the authors of Sisters In Crime/Los Angeles, that will send you scrambling for a bus ticket home. But watch your back. As they say, nobody leaves LA."

The call went out for stories of Murder in La-La Land. I tried hard to give them what they wanted. My story, CONTINENTAL TILT takes its title from Frank Lloyd Wright's theory that if you stand the country on its edge, all the loose nuts will roll into California: Two strait-laced detectives, who maybe should be strait-jacketed, are called to a murder in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. A vampire movie has been playing on the mausoleum wall and hundreds of, uh, guests have been picnicking and watching the movie from their graveside seats. The ironic thing about this is it really happens. People go to the cemetery dressed as various characters, in this case vampires, werewolves, etc., sit on the graves and "Spread out on beach chairs and blankets, with bottles of wine and beer, Boba tea, doing wheatgrass shooters and eating catered Mexasian sushi, fusion food for the Millennial-iPod generation. " (quoted from "Continental Tilt")

A man is murdered at the cemetery, with two vampire sized pin pricks in his neck, while the vampire movie is playing. Only in L.A.  Only in CONTINENTAL TILT.

A sample from the story is below.  The setup is that the two chagrinned Hollywood Division detectives arrive and start separating the crowd into like groups to start their investigation of the strangest murder mystery of their careers:

Continental Tilt logo -- D5 -- Drac blur 1 -- DSC_7470-1

"Okay, all vampires over here. Werewolves on the south side of the mausoleum. Frankensteins the north side. Charlie Mansons there, Marilyn Mansons over there." What was I saying?

"What the hell's the difference?" Mari said.

I shouted through a bullhorn. This was the new, kinder and gentler LAPD, but sometimes you still gotta use a bullhorn. "People dressed up as Kiss by the pavilion."

"What about Transitive Vampires?" a voice came out of the blue.

"Transvestite vampires?"

"Trans-i-tive Vampire – don't you know anything?"

"I don't get it. What the hell are you dressed up as?"

"A dangling participle," the trans-whatever vampire sneered. His disdainful tone said he thought he was a notch above the other vampires. As opposed to the normal vampires he wore all white, top hat, tails and cape. I was going snow-blind looking at him.

"Something's dangling. I'm not sure if it's your, uh, participle," Mari said.

"I really should be dressed as a verb. Transitives are verbs, but then I'd need a direct object, you know."

I didn't know. I didn't think I cared. But in ferreting out a case you have to have all the information. Okay, he was a dangling participle but he should have been a verb.

"Why don't you tell us a little about yourself? What are you doing here?"

"I came to watch the film, of course."

"You like to watch movies in a graveyard?"

"It sort of sets the mood, don't you think?"

"Did you see anything?"

"You mean like the deceased becoming deceased?"

"Yeah, like that."

"Certainly not. I was watching the film."

"Film, they all call it film. When did movies become film...or cin-e-mah?" Mari said. "What do you do for a living, besides sucking blood, of course?"

"Are you implying I'm the killer?"

"No, just a bloodsucker."

"I'm a writer. Agents are the real bloodsuckers."

"What do you write?"


"Have I read any of them?"

"Can you read?"

I stepped between him and Mari and turned him over to a D-I to get his stats.

"You still haven't told me where to go, Detective," he called to me, probably 'cause he knew I had weight. I was sorry we were still in earshot.

"I'd like to tell you where to go–" Mari said.

The transitive vampire stared at Mari. "You, dear lady, are an indefinite pronoun."

"Did he just insult me?" Mari glared.

"Just go with the other vampires," I said, stepping in front of her. I didn't want her to tarnish the rep of the kindergentlerLAPD.

"Good Lord, don't you know I'm not like the other vampires. I'm a transitive vampire."

"Aren't all vampires from Transylvania?" I said.

"It's trans-i-tive, not Tran-syl-vania," he said. "Don't you people know the difference?"

"Fine, find all the other transitive vampires and start your own group."

It was going to be a long night.

                    *      *      *

The editors tried to select stories with diverse locations and subjects and it's fun to see how everyone came up with their different takes on La-La Land. So get off of your yoga mats and skip the spinning for today, let your fingers do the walking across your keyboard to your favorite bookseller and order the damn book.


With stories by (and in order of appearance):

Paul D. Marks – "Continental Tilt"

Terri Nolan – "Hobo Joe"

Pam Ripling – "Just Like Jay"

Jack Maeby – "Beethoven's Last Chorus"

Jane DiLucchio – "Blondes Have More Fun"

Gabriela Vazquez – "Average Monster"

Jude McGee – "Death is Golden"

Patricia Morin – "Rap Sheet"

Kathy Kingston – "This I Know"

Donna May – "The Acquisition"

Kathleen Piche – "Board and Care"

Lenore Carlson – "Mrs. Spacek"

Murder in La-La Land authors and editors:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


♫♫♫ Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free,
Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree,
Kilt him a bar when he was only three,
Davy, Davy Crockett king of the wild frontier.♫♫
--George Bruns / Tom W. Blackburn

For those of us of a certain age and era, part of that era died last Thursday with the passing of Fess Parker.

In December, 1954, Walt Disney aired the first of a three part miniseries on Davy Crockett, starring little known actor Fess Parker. The three episodes of the original Crockett miniseries were "Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter," "Davy Crockett Goes to Congress" and "Davy Crockett at the Alamo". The show was a mega hit, but there was a problem: Davy had been killed off at the Alamo in the third episode. However, the series (TV's first miniseries) was too big a hit to let it die such a quick death. And, of course, being television Davy was resurrected for pre-Alamo adventures.

Well-known people die all the time. Sometimes their passing affects us in a deep way; sometimes we simply have a brief flash of memory about some movie or song they were involved in that intersected our lives at a certain point. When I heard that Fess Parker died last week I had much more than a brief memory flash. It was the passing of youth, the collective youth of the Baby Boomers.

The passing of Fess Parker, an icon of a generation, affected many of that generation. Author and novelist Darrell James said: " affected me too. I was thinking about some of the episodes and scenes that I can replay in my head, and so much of my early values of justice, heroism, loyalty and right vs. wrong, came from the character and Fess Parker's portrayal."

The Davy Crockett craze led to a marketing boom in all kinds of related items, especially coonskin caps, like Davy wore. Almost every child in that era had to have one, including me. When I mentioned Parker's passing to my mother the first thing she said was how she remembered me running around in my coonskin cap. And when I sent out a private e-mail to a fairly large group of friends almost every boy (uh man) and many of the girls (women) who were children then remembered having a coonskin cap. Even when my wife and I went to Disneyland not long after we were married I bought a new coonskin cap. Unfortunately, one of our cats attacked it but it still survives – the hat that is. (Wish that cat was still around too!)

Only a couple of weeks ago I had pulled out my Disney Davy Crockett DVD set and put on the Alamo episode. It might not be totally valid as a historic document and it is from an innocent 1950s Disney point of view, but it was a lot of nostalgic fun. The disc set is still sitting on the piano, as I was too lazy to put it away. Maybe I'll play another episode or two before it goes back on the shelf.

I collect toys, among other things, and some of the toys I collect are from the 1950s, including some Crockett toys. Marx, a well-known playset manufacturer of the era, created a Davy Crockett playset, complete with a character figure of Fess Parker as Crockett and a tin Alamo building.

Parker moved on to become a vintner and hotelier in and around Santa Barbara. A while back, my wife and I stayed at his Santa Barbara hotel and bought a bottle of Fess Parker wine...with a junior-sized coonskin cap on it -- fun kitsch.

It all seems like yesterday and it all seems so very long ago at the same time in this changing country of ours. Our world is changing at an accelerated pace in a lot of ways. It's sad that a lot of younger people today don't know who Fess Parker was. Many don't even know who Davy Crockett was or anything about the Alamo. A sad state of affairs. But for some of us it's a moment to think about our childhoods and memories. People we've known and things we've done.

Everything I've heard about Fess Parker in his personal and off-screen life is positive and says he was a decent person, which cannot always be said for Hollywood celebs. He is also known for playing Daniel Boone on television and various characters in a variety of movies, including Disney's "Old Yeller," a great one. But for many kids who grew up in the 1950s, Fess Parker will always be the one and only Davy Crockett.

What did Fess Parker and Davy Crockett mean to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

So long, Davy.

((( Links: Fess Parker singing "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" -- the song was originally sung by Bill Hayes:

Davy Crockett singing farewell at the Alamo:

Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen singing "Old Betsy" at Disneyland opening:

Trailer for Davy Crockett Mike Fink episode:

Alamo final battle scene: )))

Thursday, February 18, 2010


It happened right before Christmas. My wife and I were in the back of the house with a friend. A loud knock on the door. Cop knock? Amy – said wife – went to see who it was. When she didn't return after about ten minutes we started to wonder what had happened to her. I joined her at the door.

A large man with a an angry scowl stood just outside, reading Amy the riot act.

"What's going on?" I said, already feeling the bile rise inside me as this stranger ranted on.

"Your dog is digging holes in my yard."

"That's impossible," says I. Now in many cases that might simply be the defensive reaction of a proud puppy parent. In my case I knew it was the damn truth!


Earlier in the day, around 1pm Pacific Time, I got awakened by our dogs barking. (I'm a daytime sleeper as I like to write at night. Don't sleep anymore than anyone else, I just do it at a different time. Maybe there's a bit of vampire in me, so I guess I should get in on that craze, but that's another post.)

The dogs were going nuts. I went to the front door, saw a green Suburban out front in the drive. Couldn't see anyone there. Thought about opening the door, then thought I'd better put on some proper clothes, after all if it was a burglar I wouldn't want to be underdressed and make him feel unwelcome. So I went back to the bedroom and by the time I got back to the front door the Suburban was gone. I didn't know who it was. A solicitor, though we don't get many of those out here? Meter reader? Someone casing the joint? But they were gone and I was up "early," so I got started with my day.

End of flashback.

Around 4pm that day came that cop knock on the door. This is the time Amy goes to answer it while I stay with our guest. I join them a few minutes later to hear the man of the green Suburban belaboring the issue that our bigger dog (and since both are fairly large – one is stockier, the other taller, which is "bigger" – I wasn't exactly sure which one he meant) had been digging up his yard...earlier that day and not for the first time. And that he chased it back to our property.

Since I had seen his truck there earlier, around 1pm as stated, I asked if the dog had dug up his yard that day. He said "Yes." I said "That's impossible," but he wouldn't let me explain as he wanted to have his say and told us he was just giving us fair warning.

"Fair warning of what?"

But he didn't want to talk anymore and split.

We didn't know who he was or where he lived, but after talking with some other people we figured it out. We went to his house to try to explain but no one was home.

Frustrated, we didn't know what to do.

So we left a letter in the mailbox of Mr. Suburban, explaining that our dog couldn't be the culprit because A) when Amy's not home and I'm asleep the dogs are in the house and she wasn't home earlier in the day and I was asleep and since we knew both from his truck being there at 1pm and what he'd said about the dog digging up the yard earlier that day it was impossible and B) we have no doggy door (which he had accused us of having but wouldn't accept my invitation to view the house to see that the only doggy door we had was in his imagination – nor would he accept my invitation to see the dogs the first time he'd come by [catch breath]).

After getting the letter, he came by the next afternoon to apologize. Of course, when we left the letter we didn't know if he would get more angry and go crazy or if it would appeal to his rational self. It was the latter. And he did apologize and saved a little face by saying he had only wanted to warn us because he didn't want our dog to get out and get hurt on the canyon road. I let him save face. And while he was talking to me, Audie (named for Audie Murphy and not to be confused with a car of similar name but dissimilar spelling), the scofflaw dog in question, came to the door along with our other future criminal creature. And he could see that Audie was not the dog he'd chased from his property.

But before it was all resolved we had to deal with the heinous injustice of a false accusation and the mug shot of Audie at the top of this post. As you can see he was behind bars, paw prints on a print blotter, mug shot and all, and not looking very happy about it. He was, indeed, the Aud Man Out. But I ask you, could this dog be capable of what he was accused of:

Monday, February 1, 2010


...William Santoro

The only person to have picked all three pictures of me from the filmstrip -- numbers 2, 4 and 5. Congratulations and your "To Have and Have Not" DVD is on its way.

"You know you don't have to act with me, Steve. You don't have to say anything, and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Shakespeare said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." "A rose is a rose is a rose," said Gertrude Stein, which one might take to mean that a name is a name is a name.

So, what is in a name? Well, if you've ever had your identity stolen you'll know – more than you ever wanted to know "what's" in a name.

Some may remember the old TV show "To Tell the Truth." On it three guests would claim to be an individual who had done certain things. For example, the real Maria von Trapp from "The Sound of Music" was a guest. Then the show panel, made up of celebs of the time, such as Polly Bergen and Bennett Cerf, would give the guests the third degree, then have to choose which one they thought was the real Maria from the two impostors. Often the scrawny guy between two hunks would end up being the World War II hero or the frumpy woman next to two glamorous women turned out to be Maria von Trapp.

I feel like that with the internet. We all search our names every once in a while – c'mon, admit it. Several years ago it seemed like I was the only Paul Marks on the net. These days I'm just a grain of sand on a beach that stretches from Malibu to Alaska. And who is the real Paul Marks?

We like to think we're unique, the only people with our particular name. Which may be why parents these days seem to be going in for odd, no make that different names than what we might normally consider. They think that will make their children unique. They're wrong, but that's for another blog post. When you were in school you were probably the only person with your name so, in a sense, you were unique. Then you go on the web and search yourself and find out that you're a doctor, lawyer or even a wanted character. One way or another there's a million of you out there. Unless your name is Engelbert Humperdinck you are not alone.

Before Facebook (and still) many of my old friends have found me via my website. Which does come up if one searches Paul Marks, but more so if one puts the name in quotes. And even more if they add the middle initial "D" to their search. But at the same time comes a bevy of lawyers, doctors, scientists and a bunch of people with guitars (which may or may not be me since I do, or did, play guitar and bass – and bass seems to come up with a lot of Paul Markses too.) Even a Biggest Loser winner comes up under my name and is that something one really wants to be associated with? (Besides, how can someone be a winner and a loser at the same time?)

Sometimes when I'm looking through Google to see what my standing in the world is I feel like I just don't know myself anymore. Do I have blonde hair or black, or even blue? Green eyes, blue or brown. Am I a doctor, lawyer, writer or the man in the moon?

I think I'm coming down with IIC (Internet Identity Confusion) and you know none of us want to be iic – ick? But if I am ick at the very least I want my place in the latest DSM IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Who shows up when you or your friends search you? And would you ever want to step into one of your name-doppelganger's lives for even a day? Would they want to step into your life?

SO, HERE'S A CONTEST. There are six pictures in the film strip above. Some are of me, some are imposters, though they are all Paul Markses in their own right, but not in my right. The first person to correctly pick out which ones are me and e-mail me at will win the classic Bogart-Bacall film TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT on DVD…if you're willing to give me your mailing address.

Check back on Sunday evening for the results.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Once upon a time, in a land far-far away, it's rumored that writers could actually make a living selling short stories.

Larry Dark, O. Henry Awards editor, said: "In 1918, a writer could make a living writing short stories and selling them to magazines and newspapers. In 2000, this is not the case. Sadly, the more obvious, vivid entertainments of our age do not invite audience members to think in order to understand them the way short stories do. And while literacy rates have increased significantly, the rate of literary appreciation has not. The short story has become marginalized and is read by a much smaller percentage of the American public than it was when this series began."

If you're a schoolteacher, janitor, plumber, accountant, hot dog vendor or the proverbial rocket scientist or brain surgeon, you put yourself into your job, give it your all and get paid for your efforts.

Hell, even editors and publishers like to get paid.

So why is it that so many people feel they don't have to pay writers?

What would happen if Stinky the Plumber showed up at their house to fix a leaky pipe and they said, "Well, you know, I'll see if I like the job you do and then I'll see if I have a couple bucks I can pay you." Or "I'll pay you in the equivalent of contributor's copies" – what would that be? We all know what would happen.

Or try going to a restaurant, eating a five course meal and telling them "It's good, really good, but not quite right for me" and walk out without paying. ( Of course, I don't expect to get paid for what I write on spec, but this was too funny an analogy to pass up.)

Red Smith said: "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." Even when you open a vein for the Red Cross and donate blood they give you juice and cookies.
Most people don't have an appreciation for what we go through as writers. The hours spent alone, no one to talk to over the water cooler (though that's changed somewhat with the internet, which is a surrogate water cooler). The opening of our veins to get to the good stuff.

So why do we give our blood, sweat and tears away? Because we want the recognition and we're willing to do just about anything for that. And the editors and publishers know it.

What would be the terrible difficulty for them if they paid us a nominal fee, just to show their appreciation and I don't mean contributor's copies. Sure, some magazines pay a fee, but it isn't livable and you'd have to sell them a thousand stories a year to pay the bills.

The old nursery rhyme goes:

Tinker, Tailor,
Soldier, Sailor,
Rich Man, Poor Man,
Beggar Man, Thief.

It seems to me that the tinker, tailor, soldier and sailor get paid on a regular basis. The rich man has his already (though if he's like Richard Cory it still ain't worth it); the poor man (who's probably a writer doesn't get his or her due), and, of course, the beggar man and thief get theirs one way or another. Why not us writers? Even a token would be appreciated simply to show that the editors and publishers value our efforts.

Even in my "day job" as a script rewriter I've had producers try to stiff me one way or another. One time I went to this huge, well appointed house above Sunset Boulevard. Two Jags in the driveway. Two producers in a living room filled with outrageously expensive art, designer furniture and designer water. And they wanted me to work for nothing up front, which went against the WGA rules, but that didn’t' seem to matter – it often doesn't seem to matter. It's bad enough I don't get screen credit as a script doctor, and my father still can't figure out how I earn a living, but to not get paid on top of it is a whole 'nother level of degradation. One of the reasons I started focusing more and more on fiction writing, stories and a novel I'm currently working on, was to get that name recognition. I didn't realize at the time I started I'd be trading the money for the byline.

But I guess if we write for money that makes us prostitutes so maybe the publishers and editors of these various magazines are doing us a favor by letting us suffer for our art, keep our virtue and not having us soil our reps.

To paraphrase Sophie Tucker's or Mae West's comment on being rich – or whoever you want to believe said it first – I've been paid and I haven't been paid. Being paid is better.

Ultimately, we write because we have to. We open those veins because we have no choice.