Monday, August 31, 2009

Death in Savannah

I spent a little time this weekend going through the "reject bin" of photos from my trip to Savannah late last year and came across one that I decided wasn't such a reject after all.

I took it early one (foggy) morning on York Street near our B&B, The Kehoe House. I'd skipped over the photo originally because it didn't seem that dramatic, but with a little Photoshop work to add atmosphere, it got pretty dreamy/foreboding pretty fast.

Fog on York Street

So much so, it reminded me of some of the copycat covers Jeff Pierce has been blogging about over at The Rap Sheet and I decided to try my hand at turning it into one of multitude of Run, Buddy, Run numbers Jeff has cataloged.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Furst in War ...

Furst in peace, Furst in the "M" for Mystery Bookstore writing workshop.

It's not often that you see a photo with Alan Furst and me drinking wine, but here is one:

It's stolen from Cara Black's web site, and as discerning observers will note, also features Jonnie Jacobs, the Ugly Town Boys (Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe), Jeffery Deaver, Rhys Bowen and if you look carefully, Ed Kaufman, the owner of the store.

It was taken by Cara at the instructors' dinner after the workshop and you can tell it was more than a few years ago because Alan's hair has since turned the same color as mine!

I vividly remember Alan telling us a joke involving some men and a barrel, but I shan't repeat it here ...

Marshal Ney

After a long pause at a roadside rest stop, the bus for our tour of Hemingway's 1920s Paris is back on track. Our next stop: the statue of Marshal Ney (the man Napoleon called le Brave des Braves--the bravest of the brave).

The statue can be found on the corner of Boulevard du Montparnasse and Avenue de l'Observatoire in front of the cafe Closerie des Lilas.

In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway drank at toast to Ney at the cafe. He looked at the statue, "with his sword out and the shadows of the trees on the bronze" and thought of his friend Gertrude Stein, who lived nearby. Thinking of Ney's loyalty to Napoleon, he vowed to "Do my best to serve her and see she gets justice for the good work she had done as long as I can, so help me God and Mike Ney. But the hell with her lost-generation talk and all the dirty, easy labels."

Jake Barnes, the narrator from The Sun Also Rises, also has occasion to visit the statue. As he walks back from Montparnasse back to his apartment he says:
I passed Ney's statue standing among the new-leaved chestnut-trees in the car-light. There was a faded purple wreath leaning against the base. I stopped and read the inscription: from the Bonapartist Groups, some date; I forget. He looked very fine, Marshal Ney in his top-boots, gesturing with his sword among the green horse-chestnut leaves.
The statue was done by sculptor Fran├žois Rude and was admired by no less than a talent than Auguste Rodin, who said it was the most beautiful in Paris.

Marshall Ney Statue


Friday, August 21, 2009

It's Like the First Year of Your Marriage ...

William P. Arney, voice of San Francisco's Noir Film Festival, has a new web site up featuring samples of voice work he has done, including fiction of mine, as well as commercial voice overs.

You can check the web site out here. Or click here to listen to a montage of Bill's commercial voice overs, including a comparison of a certain product to the "first year of your marriage."

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I'm Ready for My Close-up, Mr. Pelecanos

Earlier, I wrote about how Raymond Chandler had a cameo role in Double Indemnity and provided some screen captures of the scene in which he appeared.

Today, I'm going to do something similar with another leading light of American crime literature. The writer? Dennis Lehane. The (small) screen vehicle? "Middle Ground," an episode from the third season of David Simon's The Wire.

This particular episode was written by George Pelecanos, which probably goes a long way towards explaining how Lehane came to be in it. Lehane plays Officer Sullivan, who works in the Baltimore Police Department's equipment locker. When Detective Jimmy McNulty goes down to the locker to find a sophisticated device for intercepting cell phone numbers from transmission towers, he finds Lehane in the guise of Officer Sullivan reading a "men's magazine":

The name of the magazine is Irish Lasses and--indeed--when we are treated to an over-the-shoulder shot of the periodical in question, we find that the young lady pictured is a redhead. Simon is on record as saying that the headline for the spread inside is titled, "James & Joyce: Portrait of the Pornstar and the Young Man," but somehow those details eluded me in my viewing of the scene.

McNulty identifies himself as being from the "major crimes" department and Lehane responds that he's from "minor irritations." McNulty asks if Lehane knows about the device he's looking for and gets nothing but a blank look in response.

McNulty asks if he can go inside the locker and look for the device for himself and, barely looking up, Lehane waves him on.

Lehane had too little screen time for me to determine if he has the chops to be a full-time actor, but at least can always fall back on his day job.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Lost Golf Balls Is a Pretty Boy

Google's translation tools are great for getting a rough idea of what a foreign phrase means or conveying the gist of the text from a page on a foreign website. But if you have any familiarity with the foreign language you are using it to translate to or from, you often notice errors that creep in--particularly errors involving "over literal" translation.

There's a new website that has some fun with the phenomenon. It's called Translation Party and the idea behind it is to take a phrase you type in English, translate it to Japanese using the Google tools, translate back to English and so on and so on, stopping only when the translation achieves "equilibrium."

The definition of equilibrium in this context is that the English and Japanese translations are exactly reflexive. I.e., they always translate back to the same words when taken on a round trip through the other language.

Can you think of some phrases to type in that might really wreak havoc? I can: Chanderlisms.

Here are a few that I tried on Translation Party:

"She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket."

Which only achieves equilibrium as:

"I was in her hip pocket, I could feel his smile."


"You boys are as cute as a couple of lost golf balls."

Which you may or may not recognize as:

"Couple, lost golf balls is a pretty boy."

Sounding something like a parrot might say. Then there's:

"A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window."

which turns into:

Kick a hole in the stained-glass window of the bishop as a blonde."

Finally, this phrase is particularly challenging:

"He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food."

It never reaches equilibrium! Each translation back is different than the one before, no matter how many round trips you take.

I figure only Raymond Chandler could manage that...

Sunday, August 02, 2009

This Writer's Office

As a follow up to my post showing my desk, here's a little photo tour of my office as whole, highlighting a recent addition. First the back corner:

Back of My Office

Then the side wall, focusing in on the aforementioned addition:

Smith Painting on Office Wall

And finally a tight shot on my wonderful new Owen Smith oil painting:

Owen Smith Painting

Which, if you've been reading this blog at all, you will recognize as the cover illustration for my forthcoming novel, The Big Wake-Up. Note Smith's signature at the bottom right corner ("O Smith 09"), something he added after the scan for the cover was made.

My wife imagines the following dialog in a year 2099 episode of the Antiques Roadshow:

(balding, overweight)
The painting's been in the family for two generations. I inherited it from my father. It was apparently done to illustrate one of those old fashioned book thingies published near the turn of the century. I've got the book here. I guess my relative wrote it.

(wearing an inappropriate amount of jewelry)
You see the signature on the lower right corner of the painting? O Smith?

Sure do.

That belongs to Owen Smith. Smith was a well-regarded illustrator in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. His art was used in The New Yorker, Time Magazine, Rolling Stone and many other popular periodicals. His paintings are prized by collectors.

I wasn't familiar with your relative--Mark Coggins--but my colleagues and I researched him. We found out that he wrote mysteries. He is not well-known, but the fact that you have the book adds provenance, increasing the value of the Smith painting considerably.

Have you ever had the painting appraised?


The value of Smith paintings as gone up considerably in recent years. With the book to provide provenance, we estimate it would fetch three trillion dollars at action.


Have you read the book?

I tried once, but I never made it past the first chapter. We've been using it to prop open the outhouse door.

Well, you probably want to at least take it inside. And get the painting insured.