Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: A Novel by Quentin Tarantino


It was sometime around fifteen years later that the reputation of a deadly half white/half Mexican gunfighter named Johnny Madrid reached the ears of Californians. The reputation was that of a scoundrel, but a scoundrel with lightning-fast prowess with a pistola. From the accounts of eyewitnesses and dime-store pulp writers, he had the quickness in killing of Tom Horn, the accuracy of aim of Annie Oakley, the nasty disposition of John Wesley Hardin, and the lack of human empathy of William H. Bonney. He was one of the most feared killers who rode the Mexican side of the border, known by the peons in the pueblos he passed through as El Asesino de Rojo (translation: “The Murderer in Red”), due to the fancy red ruffled shirt he always wore.

Those who enjoy the films of Tarantino, his Westerns in particular, may find this “novel” of interest.

First, let’s get an expectation out of the way. If you enjoyed the titled film, you do get plenty more time with Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth but…if you open the pages expecting the book to follow the film, well, that is not Tarantino’s way.

The fiery finale is reduced to a mere single paragraph summary towards the beginning of the book.

So, if the book is not the movie what is it?

Well, it’s inside baseball on filmmaking, it’s film criticism, it’s a primer of on-set behavior, it’s, well it’s many things but what it is not is a carbon copy of the film and that is what makes it interesting [to this reader’s mind.]

I assure readers of the Western Genre, we get lots of insight into how Western film and television is made and the author’s views on his own favorite Western novelists-one will not surprise you, two or three may.

There are entire chapters that seem to be no more than extended plot summaries of Western episodic television.

If your tolerance for Mr. Tarantino’s digressive style is low, well, this might be a skip for you.

If you like his films [and I do] I found myself admiring the chutzpah of choosing not to tell the same ol’ story he already told.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Spaghetti Westerns: The Good, The Bad and the Violent by Thomas Weisser


This encyclopedia volume calls itself “A Comprehensive, Illustrated Filmography.” I am told by folks in the Spaghetti Western know that this book is rife with errors and they point to other volumes as being more accurate.

I have those other volumes. They are, indeed, compendious, and huge in scope but…

I still find this A-Z treasury the volume I reach for the most in regard to running down a few “guilty pleasure” viewings.

The volume ends with a few Top Twenty Lists from Five Experts, a list of “The Worst Spaghetti Westerns” which is saying much in this genre, and the list I have found most illuminating, “Anglo Counterparts,” US made films that attempt to ape the excessive Italian style.

The experts may be able to tell how rife with error this volume is, but for this casual inexpert viewer of the genre, it fits the bill just fine.

You’ve been warned away or urged to have a look.

As in all things, your call.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Devil’s Wind by Douglas Hirt


He found a shovel in the tack house and the soft ground behind the cabin yielded easily; by the time the sun had dropped below the ragged western horizon Kendell had covered them both and was carefully patting the top of the mound into a smooth hump with the back of the shovel. He put the both of them in one hole—somehow he felt that was the way they would have wanted it. He finished smoothing down the mound, and stood back, knowing he could have done better for them but his heart wasn’t in it. Words should have been spoken over them; however, Kendell could not abide the hypocrisy of such a deed, so he just stood there looking down at the grave for a long time. Darkness had settled in when he returned to the horse and untied his saddlebags.

A rock-solid piece of entertainment. What it lacks in epic heft or subtle character observation it makes up for in lean momentum.

It reminds me of the fare that screenwriter John Grant would craft for Duke Wayne. It has its hard-hitting moments, it has its compassion, it has a substantial stick-to-ribs feel to it despite its brief running time.

An enjoyable way to while an afternoon on a sunny front porch.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

The Encyclopedia of Civil War Usage by Webb & Cheryl Garrison


Actually the complete title is The Encyclopedia of Civil War Usage: An Illustrated Compendium of the Everyday Language of Soldiers and Civilians.

The title tells all.

I imagine this would be mighty useful to authors who wish to set their tale in the aftermath of the War and ensure that their character spoke the vernacular with credence.

Also useful for the historian or inveterate reader who wants to understand what drips from the lips of folks from this era.

Dry A-Z it may be, I still read it cover to cover as one would a novel and found much to provoke a thought or two.

A few entries to give the flavor…

Confederate gas. A substitute for illuminating gas, such as pinecones or double-distilled turpentine.

Gobble, to. To win an overwhelming victory quickly.

Long taw. A distance beyond the normal range of a weapon.

Possum Beer. A variety of homebrew made from persimmons.

Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee by David Crockett

  This 1834 volume is a fine glimpse into the mindset of a legend.   What particularly strikes, this reader at least, is the well he goe...