Rediscovered: The 1565 Siege of Malta

For Autograph Hound Saturday let’s keep the theme of Malta going, which kicked in over the last few days.

Never know where the Winds of the Blog will take you, that’s what I always say.

For the John Hancock, noted pulp and book collector Kevin Cook pulls a novel signed by Tim Willocks off his shelves. When he did his own trip report a couple of years ago about taking a cruise ship to Malta Kevin referred to this novel: “Quite a few of us who still read historical fiction today consider him the best, and The Religion is based on the siege of Malta in 1565.”

Kevin no doubt could knock out a longer blurb on Willocks, since he’s a huge fan. But he told me before he does that — if memory serves — he wants to reread the two or three novels already out and soak up the upcoming title, and after adequate digestion and contemplation express his best judgment. I’m guessing he’s going to remain a huge fan.

If you refer to the pics Nathaniel Mills sent in the other day, you might especially appreciate another observation Kevin made: “The neat thing was that the original sea walls of the city are still standing, and you can understand why the Muslims at the siege had to attack from the land.”

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Rediscovered: CrimeReads Discovers Willeford

Nathan Ward just alerted me to the news that today CrimeReads put up an article on the late, great Charles Willeford. A little something for Willeford’s centennial year.

Not a bad introduction for people who don’t know Willeford (which is to say people who haven’t read my book Willeford).

The guy doesn’t seem to know that Dennis McMillan is the publisher who moved to the Miami area largely to hang around with Willeford, but then maybe he didn’t want to go too deep into the background. It’s hard enough  trying to sketch in Willeford without dragging an equally outrageous figure like DMac into the story.

And of course it features the occasional puzzling statement of “facts,” such as: “When Betsy Willeford met her future husband, he was twice divorced” — really, he thinks Willeford had divorced his second wife before he met Betsy? Jeez.

But if you need a quick intro, surf on over.

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Noir: On the Prowl

One intriguing pic Nathaniel Mills sent along from his trip to Malta, he noticed later,  “unintentionally captured this Maltese blonde, there on the bench, checking me out as I walked by.

“Did she think I was handsome or was she hired to tail me by someone who thought my store-bought falcon might’ve been the real thing?”

The shot instantly recalled for me some of those Paperback Original covers of the 1950s and early 60s, Gold Medal and company, something that could have served as the top wraps for a novel by Charles Willeford — or more likely, one of the many books by the prolific sleaze merchant Orrie Hitt.

Sure, the cover painting — by Bob McGinnis or another pro — would have softened details with quick brushstrokes, jumped up the color palate a bit, maybe moved the blonde a little closer. . . .

The kind of novel I always think of — courtesy a contemporary blurb for an early Willeford — as a tale of the Male Animal on the Prowl.

Or perhaps in this case, the Female Animal.

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Tour: Stuff to See on Malta

Stuff to see and do on the island of Malta. The stuff that dreams are made of!

Nathaniel Mills pops in a few pics to amuse his fellow travelers going Up and Down These Mean Streets.

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Tour: The “Maltese” Maltese Falcon

Nathaniel Mills came out on the walk about a month ago, and it sounded as if putting the gumshoes to the mean streets of San Francisco was part of some double-whammy plan.

He’d already hit the island of Malta.

And on the island of Malta he picked up a Black Bird statuette — apparently they’re a popular item. (In fact, you may remember Kevin Cook reporting on his trip to Malta a couple of years ago, in which he disdained the statues — but Kevin is picky as hell, as we all know.)

Nathaniel sounded as if he was pretty happy with his dingus. If you get one or another of the various imitation statues churned out over the years, a fake of a fake, I’m thinking it would be cool to look at it and know you nabbed it on Malta.

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Sinister Cinema: Karloff

Autograph Hound Super-Sunday — what signature could Brian Leno possibly offer on the altar of Movie Titans Past for the John Hancock Ritual?

Especially after his tour de force rollout yesterday.

I think he’s got it covered. Here’s Brian:

Nobody will ever get through a night of Halloween movies without seeing at least one featuring Boris Karloff.

No one has ever done the Frankenstein Monster as well as Karloff, and I doubt anybody ever will.

It would be crazy to try to list all the great flicks Karloff was in — if you have seen Boris, you know, if you haven’t, well it’s time to turn off the crap that passes for scary movies today and start watching the real stuff.

Boris isn’t cheap, as a penciled notation shows on the autographed slip of paper.

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Sinister Cinema: Dracula’s Daughter

And Brian Leno rings the knell on today’s Autograph Hound Saturday:

We can’t have Halloween without some mention of Dracula and that brings us to an often overlooked horror movie.

Gloria Holden, best known for Dracula’s Daughter (1936), is a tough signature to locate, even though she lived to the age of 87.

Viewed by modern audiences Dracula’s Daughter perhaps comes off as a bit stiff and old fashioned but I enjoy it and during this time of year try to see it at least once. It’s a worthy addition to the Universal Pictures series of monster movies.

The card of Holden’s has the signing date on the back: 2–16–82.

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Sinister Cinema: Beverly Garland, The Alligator People

In preparation for Halloween, Brian Leno needs to get in the mood by showcasing some signatures from his vault: 

The signed card of Beverly Garland being mishandled in The Alligator People (1959) is a real keeper for me.

I remember watching this movie at a drive-in theater and loved the hell out of it.

Bruce Bennett and Lon Chaney were co-stars and I have fond memories of Chaney holding up a hook where his hand had once been, spitting out “Gators did this to me!”

Years ago I wrote Garland and asked for an autograph, and she was gracious enough to send back three or four signed items. Beautiful and a class act, hard to find combination.

Posted in Film | Tagged , , , , , , |

Sinister Cinema: Barbara Payton, Bride of the Gorilla

You can’t fool Brian Leno. He knows it’s October, and that means Halloween horror — so he dug up some cinematic Jane Hancocks to fill in his Autograph Hound Saturday crypt-keeper duties. Enjoy — if you dare!

Halloween is one of the great times of year. Leaves crunch underfoot, the air is crisp, kids dressed as goblins pester you for candy and television is filled with old ‘monster’ movies; it is what is good in life.

The story of Barbara Payton is a Hollywood horror story.

Beautiful and talented enough to be cast opposite Jimmy Cagney in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950), her life spiraled into a blackness that can only elicit sympathy from the hardest Tinseltown heart.

Drugs, alcohol and even charges of prostitution were standard fare in her life and an engagement to Franchot Tone didn’t settle her down.

She was having an affair with Detour (1945) tough guy Tom Neal despite the engagement to Joan Crawford’s former husband, and things took a decidedly bad turn when Neal, a former boxer, encountered Tone in Payton’s apartment.

It couldn’t really be called a fight — Neal smashed Tone into a coma that lasted almost a day, broke his nose and caused other injuries that only a trained boxer could inflict on another man.

Payton’s was featured in Bride of the Gorilla (1951), a low budget flick scripted by Curt Siodmak. The movie may be terrible, but just watching Barbara Payton is a delight and well worth the time.

Her signature is rare and won’t be bought with candy corn.

Posted in Boxing, Film | Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Frisco Beat: Where are the Fanzines of Yesteryear?; or, a Little Riff on David Mason’s Devil’s Food

Aha! I warned uber fanzine guy Bill Breiding that if he messed up any bits in an article on Sword-and-Sorcery writer David Mason (Kavin’s World, etc.) I sent in for his new zine Portable Storage Two that I’d correct on the trusty blog.

If he wants he can correct it on his end as more copies get ordered, then anyone who has the repudiated version can claim it’s a marker of an early state — that’s how we do “first edition” stuff in the POD realm. I guess.

Here’s the textual change that didn’t get made:

In 2016 a guy showed up for one of the first Hammett Tours of the spring—one of the guys who track down the odd and eccentric and interesting writers I slipped into Literary World of San Francisco. Brian Doohan—you wouldn’t have heard of him—and David Mason are two of those names that come up most often.

He told me that he was a fan of the guide book, using it to track down things he might want to read. And he told me he had just read Devil’s Food.

I told Bill: “in bit above I double-up the ‘track down’ wording (see, nothing like writing something the last day), so change to”:

In 2016 a guy showed up for one of the first Hammett Tours of the spring—one of the guys who track down the odd and eccentric and interesting writers I slipped into Literary World of San Francisco. Brian Doohan—you wouldn’t have heard of him—and David Mason are two of those names that come up most often. He told me he had just read Devil’s Food.

I was knocking it out on the due date, as I usually do things, so I accept a full share of any blame. It’s not as if we’re talking The Gettysburg Address — but you’ll agree the revamp is smoother.

The article deals with my decades-long quest to track down the David Mason porno novel Devil’s Food, set in San Francisco. One of my off trail books about books pieces, kind of in-line with the stuff I used to do in Firsts.

The zine itself (you can sample the first pages) deals with the usual variety of general zine concerns, pushing the idea that POD opens up wide vistas for Pubbing Your Ish. Music. Books. Mimeo. Everybody dying.

And in the letters column I tell Bill he sounded like an egghead in Portable Storage One

His rebuttal?

With only a fifth grade education I’ve never even remotely thought of myself as an egghead. Existentially, it’s as improbable for me not to acutely examine the processes of fanzine publishing as it was for Bill Bowers!

Sounds like an egghead, right?

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