Saturday, August 29, 2020

Odds and Ends

• Although it might be easy to overlook, today is Independent Bookstore Day. In previous years, this occasion has brought out tens of thousands of readers, all willing to race between independent book retailers in record time. (You can read my recaps of some such mad dashes here, here, and here.) But, due to the continuing—and continually devastating—COVID-19 pandemic (180,000 people dead in the United States, and Trump still won’t develop a national plan for dealing with this crisis!), the 2020 celebration was first postponed from April 25 to today, August 29, and has since turned into a primarily virtual celebration. However, as B.V. Lawson of In Reference to Murder reminds us, there are limited in-store events around the United States. And even if it’s unsafe to visit two dozen or so shops today, you can still patronize one or two, picking up fresh reading material and supporting these immensely valuable businesses, many of which have seen significant drops in sales this year. Or go online to order. Click here to find a list of participating retailers; search for your local stores by zip code.

• While we’re on the subject of indies, Portland, Oregon’s wonderful Powell’s Books (which has also been hit hard by the pandemic) has announced that it will no longer sell its wares via Amazon. “For too long,” says owner Emily Powell, “we have watched the detrimental impact of Amazon’s business on our communities and the independent bookselling world. We understand that in many communities, Amazon—and big box retail chains—have become the only option. And yet when it comes to our local community and the community of independent bookstores around the U.S., we must take a stand. The vitality of our neighbors and neighborhoods depends on the ability of local businesses to thrive. We will not participate in undermining that vitality.” Of course, you can still purchase new and used works from the Powell’s Web site.

• In Reference to Murder alerts us as well to the coming “virtual Bloody Scotland writing festival on September 18, available with free registration. Features include a panel on Pitching Your Story; Jeffery Deaver—My Life in Crime; The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers—Behind the Scenes; and The McIlvanney Prize and Debut Prize announcement. Organizers also recently announced that the entire Bloody Scotland crime fest (running September 17-30) will be available for free online, including events with special guests Lee Child and Ian Rankin.”

• George Roy Hill’s 1973 con-man film, The Sting, placed 12th in Otto Penzler’s recent assessment of “The Greatest Crime Films of All Time.” But CrimeReads staff writer Olivia Rutigliano gives that Oscar-winning Paul Newman/Robert Redford vehicle star treatment in this new piece, which applauds its storyline as “a perfect crystal of a premise—clean and neat despite the multitude of facets that it will turn over as it rolls along.” She adds:
In my opinion, The Sting’s particular kind of endless narrative-unfurling has never been topped by another movie—but The Sting is also fascinating for how many layers of performance it dons, as it progresses. The movie is often discussed in terms of its flawless headlining, a pairing between Newman and Redford that is even more fun and fulfilling than its counterpart in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (which, despite the joys of its big-time good-guy-burglaries, scenic chase scenes, and bicycle riding interludes, is bound to a historical accuracy that can’t provide the triumphant ending we crave for our heroes). Indeed, for us, the audience, much of the massive appeal of The Sting is specifically dependent on the performative togetherness of Newman and Redford—the presentation that they’re two halves of a friendly, repeatable routine. They are one of Hollywood’s greatest duos, greatest double-acts.
All of which reminds me that during last year’s Independent Bookstore Day, I found the paperback movie tie-in treatment of The Sting, written by Robert Weverka. It’s still sitting in a pile on my desk. Might it at last be time to crack that baby open?

• I read Elmore Leonard’s Unknown Man #89 (1977) back in college, which was more than a few coon’s ages ago. So it’s good to have my memory of the tale refreshed by this review in Mystery Tribune. Author Nev March says the book “gets more than passing grades—it reveals the quandary of a ‘regular guy,’ a sometime scamp, coming to terms with what he can and cannot stomach in the world around him. It lays bare the arguments that an alcoholic wields to persuade himself, with honesty that can only come from the pain of experience. Although lesser known than Leonard’s bestsellers Raylan, Tishomingo Blues, Be Cool, Get Shorty, and Rum Punch, the novel Unknown Man #89 is a tale of action, deduction, and soul-searching choices.”

• Finally, I have some sad news to impart: Sixty-five-year-old author Paul Green—who has penned biographies of Roy Huggins, Pete Duel, and Jeffrey Hunter, and has also produced books about “weird detectives” and television’s The Virginian—confided recently on Facebook that he has entered hospice care. He tells me, “I suffer from stage 4 prostrate cancer that has spread to my bones. I have been under treatment for three years.” According to a biographical note on Amazon, Green “began his professional career as an artist for World Distributors, DC and Marvel UK, Egmont and Whitman on such titles as Doctor Who, Star Trek, Alias Smith and Jones, Masters of the Universe, Scooby-Doo, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man.” Born in Lincoln, England, he currently resides in Rustburg, Virginia. A kind, hopeful thought or two for Paul would not go amiss.

1 comment:

Kathy D. said...

Your point about The Sting reminded me that my great-uncle, George Newcomb, was a bit of a crook. In addition to being a bookie and a bootlegger during Prohibiiton, he was involved in the actual sting portrayed in the movie.

He was the guy who wrote the racing results on the chalkboard.

I had never heard of him going to jail, so he evaded the long arm of the law.