Mabuse MAD!

220px-testamentofdrmabuse-posterI blame Carol at the Cultural Gutter for kicking me off onto this tangent. To my film shame, I had not ever sat down to watch the entirety of Fritz Lang’s classic crime film, Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse. As an academic, I am of course always in search of ways to supplement my paltry pay so I joked about turning to hypnosis or tarot or even advertising, as well as crime.

‘Why not combine them all, Mabuse style?’

She was right as usual. Put all my esoteric and criminal arts to use as a mastermind behind capers of a nefarious nature: genius! Only in fiction, surely! First I needed to sit down and enjoy Lang’s masterpiece of expressionist cinema, collaborating with his talented wife Thea von Harbou, who adapted one of Norbert Jacques‘ unfinished novels on the shadowy figure (yes, I’ve got to read the novels, too).

There’s just so much good here, even if you’re not contemplating a life of crime. Secret hideouts, nefarious plans, dapper grifters, glass alligators — and a medical school (in 1933) more diverse than many top ones are now. Cool special effects, too. So here’s a bunch of images to give you a reason to watch the film, too. Helps if you have the Criterion Channel or Kanopy. Click the images to embiggen. I’m going to work on my hypnotic stare now.

“Are authors expected to write plenty during the spring season?”

love-is-a-griftI’m taking part in one of the roundtables over at The Big Thrill this week. The topic is:

“Are authors expected to write plenty during the spring season?”

Drop by and offer your opinion and see what the other have to say.

How much do you write? Every day? Only on weekends? When the mood strikes?

Check out my interview in The Big Thrill newsletter, too.

Don’t forget: the big LOVE IS A GRIFT gift package is awaiting someone who reviews the book. Enter to win!

Love is a Grift: Giveaway #3 THE BIG ONE!

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Check it! A super prize package that includes an XL t-shirt, travel mug, notebook, and sticker all emblazoned with S. L. Johnson’s wicked cool cover design for LOVE IS A GRIFT plus a free download of Victoria Squid’s theme song for the book. What do you have to do to win?

Review the book LOVE IS A GRIFT.

  1. Buy it or get it from the library (don’t steal it — crime belongs between the covers!) and offer your opinion at Amazon or Goodreads or on your blog (or some combination thereof).
  2. Tell me where your review can be found. Tweet the link to me or drop it below here in the comments.
  3. That’s it: you’re in the bin for the drawing which will be held May 15, 2019 before I change continents again.
  4. Open across the globe! I will verify the items have been mailed, but I cannot guarantee delivery by your mail service. They will be going out from the USPS to the address that you give me. Be sure to use the format they employ.

Out Now: Love is a Grift

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FOX SPIRIT: Out today! The amazing Love is a Grift by Graham Wynd!
With fabulous cover by S.L Johnson, this collection offers a fresh take on a classic genre, that begins with obsession and most often ends with death.

And don’t forget to check out the exclusive Love is a Grift music and artwork merchandise!

Love is a Grift can be found in ebook formats in our store here. The paperback can be bought at Amazon (N.B. there seems to be a slight delay with the paperback).

Love is a Grift, the theme song can be heard and purchased at Bandcamp or CDBaby.

Exclusive Love is a Grift merchandise can be found at S. L. Johnson’s store at Tee Public or Red Bubble.

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GO BIG OR GO HOME? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

Cover(s!) Reveal

So close! Double release of LOVE IS A GRIFT the book and the song. Here’s the drop-dead gorgeous cover art by S. L. Johnson Images. The book from Fox Spirit and the song will be available at CD Baby (and other places). Dead swanky!

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FFB: Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith

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I was sure I had written this up before but I searched for it and didn’t find it. This Sphere edition is so much nicer than the bland corporate packaging of the St Martin’s Griffin edition I did end up buying. When you’re on a Highsmith kick and buying everything, the covers are less important (though still proud to own the kickass edition of This Sweet Sickness).

There are two kinds of writers: those who are articulate about the process and those who are not (ditto most arts and artists). Highsmith is not one. If you want a handbook on the topic, this is not the one to teach you. Of course if your publisher offers to pay you to write one, most writers will accept the challenge. But this is not the Highsmith School of Suspense Fiction School, which she recognises. So she turns to the tortured history of her novel The Glass Cell (a good Film for a Friday) in hopes that it will clarify how she does what she does. The case study is so singular that it could hardly be useful in inspiring a budding writer.

Highsmith outlines the evolution of the novel, which ‘was not inspired by any specific story idea but evolved simply out of the desire to write such a book–which is perhaps no bad reason for writing a book’ (chapter 10). She traces the idea from a prisoner’s fan letter (‘I don’t think my books should be in prison libraries’), to reading a book about convicts, to developing intellectual rather than emotional’ threads ‘none of them spectacular’. After that she tries to add some motivation for the characters. A key turns into a dog. What ifs multiply. A wife becomes unfaithful. The first two versions were rejected by her publisher.

‘I thought my story was not bad, but perhaps it could be better. When one thinks this, even faintly, it is best to write it over.’

The interesting part of this book is of course her voice, the anecdotes and the little insights that she may not even realise she’s offering. Speaking of her admiration for Graham Greene Highsmith makes plain her pleasure in reading him. ‘There is no doubt that a study of the whole field of “the best” in suspense writing, whatever that is, can be of benefit professionally to a suspense writer, but I would just as soon not pursue this study.’

Highsmith, in all her ambivalence there — and it’s entertaining.

See all the overlooked gems at Patti Abbott’s blog.

#Noirvember Song for a Saturday: Ida Lupino – One for My Baby

Yeah, it’s all Ida this week. Impressing on my students the genius that she was. They watched this clip as an introduction. We discussed what they assumed to be going on in the scene based on their knowledge of noir now. They did pretty well. If you haven’t seen the film, it can be found in its entirety on the ‘tube.

‘She does more without a voice than anybody I’ve ever heard!’

How’s your #Noirvember going? Got a favourite noir tune?

Song for a Saturday: Vaskresenje – Severija

Can’t let go of Babylon Berlin: the two-disc soundtrack is the bomb. The score is very drum and percussion heavy which you know suits me down to the ground. The songs by Bryan Ferry and the fabulous Severija, including this Russian version of Rezső Seress’ Szomorú vasárnap (Gloomy Sunday) with its alleged history (internet loves its myths) make for great decadent musings in this afternoons of this too-hot summer.

Yes, I’m aware of the irony of making ‘Gloomy Sunday’ a Song for a Saturday.

I’ve got the novel now, too. On the summer pile. Maybe I’ll take it to Edge-Lit. Always good to have something to read on the train.