General


IGNORANCE MAY NOT BE BLISS EXACTLY,
BUT IT HAS ITS MOMENTS….
by Dan Stumpf


   Not a review per se but something I wanted to put out to the others here and see if it got any reaction. A College Professor once told me that the function of Innocence is to be destroyed. Well maybe, but I’m not sold on the notion.

   I was discussing Out of the Past and a few other films yesterday, and reflecting on the value of Innocence: When I first watched Out, I knew nothing about film noir and so wasn’t prepared for the plot developments or the ending — which made them much more powerful.

   Nowadays you can’t get close to it without knowing in advance that it’s one of the essential noirs, and setting your expectations accordingly. Similarly, there;s something magical about being 15 and watching The Maltese Falcon or Angels with Dirty Faces, not knowing the endings. Or being 19, going to an all-night drive-in-movie triple feature and seeing Night of the Living Dead before it had such an awesome rep, when it was just another monster movie.

   In each case, my enjoyment of the film was keyed by not expecting, not knowing in advance… Doesn’t happen much anymore. These days I’m more likely to hear a film praised or a scene described or a book synopsized, and build up my expectations. By the time I saw The Searchers I’d heard so much about it, it couldn’t possibly live up to my mental hype; had to see it a few more times to really appreciate the film for what it was.

   So I’m just wondering if anyone here has similar memories of reading or watching something that turned out to be a classic, and if you can still recall that first youthful thrill of discovery.

   Or am I just getting into my dotage?

       A Ballade of Detection

Savants there be who joy to read
    Of lofty themes in words that glow;
Others prefer the poet’s screed
    Where liquid numbers softly flow.
    Others in Balzac interest show,
Or by Dumas are much impressed;
    Some seek grim novels of woe–
    I like Detective Stories best

To my mind nothing can exceed
    The tales of Edgar Allan Poe;
Of Anna Katharine Green I’ve need,
    Du Boisgobey, Gaboriau;
    I’ve Conan Doyle’s works all a-row
And Ottolengui and the rest;
    How other books seem tame and slow!
I like Detective Stories best.

The dim, elusive clues mislead.
    Hiding the mystery below;
To fearful pitch my mind is keyed,
    Opinion shuttles to and fro!
    Successive shocks I undergo
Ere the solution may be guessed;
    Arguments and discussions grow–
I like Detective Stories best.

          ENVOY:

Sherlock, thy subtle powers I know,
    Spirit , incarnate quest,
To thee the laurel wreath I throw—
    I like Detective Stories best.

            — Carolyn Wells

NOTE: Reprinted from The Bookman, March 1902. Thanks to Victor Berch for unearthing this poem and sending it along to be posted here.

THE SECOND GREAT PAPERBACK REVOLUTION:
E-Books and the Second Coming of the Pulps and The Paperbacks
by
David Vineyard

 

   It is common on this blog for myself, and others, to bemoan why so many of the great (and admittedly not so great) writers of the past are not represented in today’s book market. The lament usually goes something like this:

   They don’t write them like they used to, and all the great old books are lost, forgotten. You can’t find (choose the name of your choice) in print. The only books out there are dull and badly written in comparison. The new generation doesn’t know what it is missing …

   In the immortal words of Seinfeld: ‘Yada yada yada…’

   Well, I sorry to deny my fellow curmudgeonly collectors and readers one of our pet hobby horses, but our favorite lament is no longer true, and so untrue that the solution to the problem is not in some dusty musty smelling used bookstore, crowded book fair or busy convention where you have to cram a year’s worth of book hunting and buying into a few cramped hours, but no farther away than a fingers touch away and under $10 in cost.

   In the last 24 hours I have recreated some major elements of my lost collection, and the most it has cost me for a single volume has been $4, in many cases less than $1. Understand I’m not just talking about obscure or once famous writers from another age, though I’ve recovered my complete Charlie Chan, Philo Vance, Mr. Moto, Bulldog Drummond, Dr. Thorndyke, Father Brown, Sherlock Holmes, Raffles, and Tarzan collections — all for a grand total of $1.99 (the Tarzan); those have been around almost from the beginning, in public domain.

   No, I’m talking about a second paperback and pulp revolution equal to the first, and, like the first, in cheap readily accessible attractive and easily transportable editions. Oh, and I might add so far I haven’t spent a dime for the devices to read them, though I certainly plan to buy an inexpensive Kindle soon. Carrying a thousand books in a device smaller than a trade paperback gives a new meaning to the word ‘pocketbook.’

   More importantly, some of these writers haven’t been available at these prices since the 1980‘s.

   Who am I talking about?

   John D. MacDonald, Dan J. Marlowe, William Campbell Gault, Ross McDonald, Peter Rabe, Wade Miller (the complete Max Thursday for .99 each), Frank Kane, Brett Halliday, Mickey Spillane, Donald Hamilton, Stephen Marlowe, Ed Lacy, Henry Kane: and from the pulps, Nebel, Chandler, Hammett, Paul Cain (for free), Carroll John Daly, Robert Leslie Bellem, not to mention Doc Savage, the Spider, the Avenger, the Black Bat, even Nick Carter, Frank Merriwell, and the Rover Boys …

   Almost all those books are under $10, most under $5 and many under $1. Some are even free.

   Granted, you don’t have the pleasure of an actual book in your hands, and it takes a bit of time to adjust to reading in this format (arguably the Kindle, Nook, etc are closer to actually reading a book), but many of the complaints I’ve heard lodged against e-books here echo what was said of the pulps and paperbacks as well. E-books will never replace the feel of a book, certainly not a leather bound or quatro buckram edition with its scent and heft, but frankly I had less than 100 such books in my extensive collection and few of them were worth what I paid for them. E-books won’t appreciate in value either, but they are here, available, and no doubt will develop their own following.

   To quote James Joyce, I’m not trying to convert you or pervert myself, but I am trying to point out that this is far and away the most important revolution in books since the paperback was born. When I began collecting it took me years to accumulate books by John Buchan, Sapper, Dornford Yates, Louis Joseph Vance, Maurice Leblanc, Talbot Mundy, Edgar Wallace, Rohmer, Van Dine, and others. Now all it takes is a few keystrokes and a WiFi or DSL connection. I could, with a little effort, and under $500 dollars, download my entire collection of over forty years worth close to $100,000, in less than eighteen hours — and that only because of sheer volume.

   I don’t ask that you adapt to the e-book, or even read one, but don’t complain about expensive limited reprint editions or the scarcity of this material. Everyday more volumes are being added and new generations of readers are discovering these writers, people, I might add, who would not have purchased them from a paperback kiosk and certainly not in limited overpriced editions. Most of these books have reviews by people who read and enjoyed them and don’t know there ever was a paperback revolution.

   I currently reside in a small town, a small and spectacularly illiterate community, where the only source of books are a high school library and the Dollar General, and neither updates its stacks often or carries much more than women’s soft core porn, vampire and ‘romantic suspense’ novels. A treasure is a remaindered Preston and Childs or Cussler. Once a month, if I’m lucky, I get to a Hastings. For now that’s it. But, at my fingertips I have access to books from around the world in countless languages and libraries as important as Oxford’s Boedelian and Harvard.

   Like the first paperback revolution this includes an entire new world of original e-books, many better than you could hope, or no worse than what you find on the mass market book stands at Wal-Mart, and numerous sources of free books. I can also, for far less than the near $30 they cost on the stands, purchase the latest bestseller. You can even purchase an e-book “safe” for $20 to protect your collection — more than I can say for actual books.

   Then too, those of us who have been married should welcome the end of those long forbearing stares when our collection threatens to over run the house having already driven the cat and both cars out of the garage and threatening to cause the ceiling to collapse by their sheer weight in the attic…

   Books and collecting have always evolved. Don’t be the guy complaining because some German named Gutenberg put all those monks copying books out of business. This is not a fad, it’s a revolution, and standing in the way of one has never been a good idea.

   How could any of us complain about our favorite writers being in print and finding new and enthusiastic readers? Because digital editions take up no actual physical space (a Kindle can hold 10,000 books and will only get more powerful), and cost virtually nothing to reprint, the possibilities are endless.

   Most of us converted without pain from 16 mm to VHS to DVD, to Blu-Ray. This is the same thing, only here when a format goes kaput you don’t have to replace everything you own in Beta, you download a free converter and soon it’s all back. Granted Kindle won’t play on Nook and so on, but you can get a free app to read any format or get a free Calibre converter for extinct formats like Microsoft Readers LIT that take up little space on your PC and require no tech savvy to use.

   For those of us born in the shadow of the first paperback revolution this one is even bigger, and likely more fundamental culturally. You don’t have to embrace it, but recognize what it means. Book collecting will never be the same again. This is the most important thing to happen to books since Gutenberg, I have no idea where it is going, but if it keeps my favorites from the past available I say it’s going in the right direction.

   Somehow I don’t think Erle Stanley Gardner or Mickey Spillane would be the least bothered by having their work bring in money in another format — I can promise you Alexandre Dumas, the most business savvy author who ever lived (despite losing everything numerous times) wouldn’t mind at all.

   Collectors, and I include myself, need to dismount our high horses before we fall off of them.

   Oh brave new world that has such formats in it.

It took a little longer than expected, but the comments are back. While I probably won’t post anything more tonight, things will be back to normal here by this time tomorrow, if not before.

I don’t know why things happen the way they do, but my daughter Sarah and her husband Mark left for a two week vacation in England on Thursday, and it’s Mark who does the heavy lifting around here: backing up data and doing the repairs. Sure enough, as soon as he got out of the country, bingo! That’s when the blog went down.

It took a few emails back and forth with GoDaddy to solve the problem, but solved it is, and we’re back. Thanks, Mark!

PS. The last comment that was processed correctly was a suggestion made by Paul Herman that The Shadow should be counted as one of the Triple Threat Franchise Players. He is correct:

http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=19550#comments

If you tried to leave a comment anytime after Paul’s, it disappeared into Voodooland. If you’d like to try again, please do.

The comments have disappeared from all my posts. It should be temporary but the repairs are beyond my pay level. Let’s put everything on hold until I can get it fixed. Don’t reply to this or any other post until I send an all clear.

VINTAGE ASSOCIATION OF MOTION PICTURE BLOGS

   Even though only a portion of the posts on this blog are about Vintage Motion Pictures, I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been accepted as a member of VAMP.

   Check out their website. Lots of links there to other movie-oriented blogs, all worth visiting!

Happy Birthday to the Drive-In Theater
by Walker Martin


   While recently engaged in one of my favorite activities, mainly that of watching movies on DVD, I suddenly realized that it was the birthday of one of my former hangouts, the Drive-In Theater.

DRIVE-IN THEATERS

   On June 6, 1933, the Drive-In was born in Camden, New Jersey. It immediately became the place to go and by the height of its popularity in the 1950′s and 1960′s there were over 4,000 theaters across the country.

   In the 1970′s, my wife and I went to the Drive-Ins just about every weekend. Even in the winter, the places were so popular that there were theaters that provided in-car heaters. Of course you would have to turn your ignition and also use the car heater.

   There were several in the Trenton NJ area and we used to visit them all: US 1 North Drive-In, Roosevelt Drive-In, Lawrence, Route 206, The Dix, Ewing Drive-In. Too many to remember.

   They are all gone now, and maybe for me personally it’s a good thing. I probably would not have survived to 2012 if I had continued to go to them. I believe most of them died in the 1980′s and if they had lasted much longer, I would have died with them.

DRIVE-IN THEATERS

   Why? I got into the habit of following my “Drive-In Routine,” which consisted of cigarettes, a six pack of beer, and Arby roast beef sandwiches and french fries.

   We would eagerly arrive while it was still daylight in order to get a place in the front or second row. I would hold off the orgy of eating and drinking until the opening credits and then it was not a pretty sight as I devoured Arby’s and swilled cans of beer, tossing them outside the car window as I finished each one. One beer equaled one cigarette.

   My wife hated my smoking because the smell of old cigarette smoke would sink into her hair and clothes. But, being the typically guy, and since she was a non-book collector, what did I care? Even at the Drive-In, I still applied my life long philosophy that there are two types of people, collectors and non-collectors.

   There was another annoying thing about many Drive-Ins: the bugs and insects. In the hot summer nights we would of course have the windows down and in they would come to feast on me. They mainly ignored my wife because she was only half my size, and the Arby’s and beers must have made my blood taste good.

DRIVE-IN THEATERS

   To try and drive the bugs away, many of the theaters sold a product called PIC. I forget what the initials meant but it was a coil that you lit with a match and placed on your dashboard. It seemed to work on clearing the bugs out of the car but after awhile you also wanted to leave the car.

   Of course, after a few beers I no longer cared about them and I had no trouble concentrating on the movie.

   My wife and I followed the same routine. Me with Arby’s, french fries, beer, cigarettes, while watching all 3 movies, and she gasping, coughing, scratching, and complaining while she watched the first feature. She never made it past the first movie because she always fell asleep during the first intermission.

   It seemed I always picked the movie, and they just about all were the triple feature horror movies. This was before the VCR and the video revolution, and you could not find many of the movies on TV.

   Some were foreign imports showing more than the usual violence and skin but my favorites were the Hammer horror films. Nothing like a Hammer horror movie combined with Arby’s and beer. Heaven!

DRIVE-IN THEATERS

   Actually my first experiences with a Drive-In came late in life but once exposed, I was hooked until they all died. I’ve always had my nose stuck in a book during my childhood and into my twenties. It was not until I was drafted into Army that I started regularly attending. While at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, a bunch of soldiers would pile into a car with a couple cases of beer and go to the Drive-Ins off base.

   The first time I went I was not used to drinking and instead of drinking beer I drank a bottle of blackberry brandy. The last thing I remembered was the opening credits of the first feature. The next thing I recalled was the closing credits of the third and last movie. I had passed out and missed all three films. I made sure that never happened again.

   There used to be hundreds of the theaters in New Jersey and now there is one in Vineland NJ that I’m aware of. Too far away. What killed the Drive-In? The VCR and the video revolution killed them.

DRIVE-IN THEATERS

   No longer did movie lovers and horror buffs have to go to the Drive-In to see films of the bizarre and unusual. Instead they could stay home and watch the movies on their VCR’s in the comfort of family surroundings.

   No more fighting insects, smelly PICS, or terrible drive-in rest rooms. I never tried drive-in fast food but it looked deadly.

   So Happy Birthday to the Drive-In. I know there are a few scattered survivors in other parts of the country. But in New Jersey, the birthplace of the Drive-In, they are sadly missed. Rest In Peace.

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