Monday, October 25, 2010

Help! I need a catch phrase!

One of the most fun parts of being an author is signing books for readers, but I often find myself stuck for clever wording. Sure, "best wishes" and "thanks for reading" are acceptable fall-backs, but I want something unique and fun. George Romero, for example, signs everything, "Stay Scared!" My problem is I write both horror and fantasy, so I need a catch phrase that works for both.

So help me out, you brilliant folk. And for incentive, I've got a copy of The Girls with Games of Blood on unabridged audio for the person who comes up with a workable catchphrase before I leave for the World Fantasy Convention on Thursday.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Two Jakes: the past never goes away

I love detective movies, and my tastes pretty much line up with the accepted canon of greatness: The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, Out of the Past, Laura, The Thin Man, and so forth. And I have a soft spot for cross-genre mashups: Blade Runner, In the Mouth of Madness, Angel Heart.

But one of my favorites almost always gets blank looks.

The Two Jakes is the 1990 sequel to Chinatown, one of the major works of both the seventies and the detective genre. The Two Jakes isn't a defining classic like its predecessor, but neither is it the total failure of popular assumption. Instead it's a commentary on both the first film, and on the way the past is always with us in general. It's a sequel in that it involves the same characters, but in a greater sense it's a standalone story that uses Chinatown as a metatext. Normally I have a low tolerance for all things "meta," since they usually also involve wink-wink irony and nudge-nudge breaking of the fourth wall to let the audience in on the joke. But The Two Jakes plays it straight, and honest.

The film begins with JJ "Jake" Gittes, again played by Jack Nicholson, helping Jake Berman (Harvey Keitel) catch his unfaithful wife in the act. I won't get into the plot, since it's a) really convoluted and b) part of the fun, but it does eventually tie into the events of Chinatown, so much so that a refresher viewing might be in order. The film is gorgeous to look at, feels authentically of its period (1948) and brims with great character actors in supporting roles. The script is again by Robert Towne, but instead of Roman Polanski directing, this time it's Nicholson himself.

I enjoy rewatching The Two Jakes a lot more than Chinatown. It's not just the earlier film's ghastly plot twist, or its nihilistic, almost mythically-depressing ending. The characters in The Two Jakes, both good guys and bad, are more fun to hang out with. A big reason for that is Nicholson's actor-centric direction, which gives the cast plenty of room to work. This could be interpreted as padding, and some critics berate the film for it, but those critics mistakenly expect another Chinatown. The Two Jakes is a different story, with a different point to make, and judging it against the earlier film does it a disservice.

Read a New York Times article on the film while it was in production here.

If you've seen The Two Jakes, or if this article prompts you to check it out, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The cover of Dark Jenny

At long last, here's the cover art for Dark Jenny, the third Eddie LaCrosse novel, due out next spring. The artist is Larry Rostant. As you can see, it goes in a whole new direction for the series.

So what do you think?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Meet the One-Eyed Monster

(Lily's shelter mug shot)

This summer I mentioned we got a cat. Apparently my prior comments on cats made this news surprising. So here's the scoop (and the litter box is over there! Badda-BING!).

I've gone on record many places as saying I hate cats. The last cat I lived with introduced herself by launching claws-first at my crotch (I was jingling change in my pocket at the time) and peeing on my leather jacket whenever possible. I adore dogs, want a dog, wish I had a dog. But instead I have a cat.

And the worst part is, I picked her.

We decided the boys needed a pet for the new house, so we went to the Shelter from the Storm adoption fair. I had every intention of taking home a dog, but clicked with none of the ones available. The cats, meanwhile, were displayed in a vast row along the outside wall of PetSmart, two and three cages high in places. Most had kittens or playful adolescent cats in them, and the cries of delighted children filled the air. Whoopee, I thought. As someone once said, "If you have a cat in your house, you also have a box of shit in your house."

And then, at one end, in a big cage all by herself, sat Lily.

She was fat. She was old. She had one eye. And no one was paying any attention to her. I saw a kindred spirit.

"We're taking that one," I said.

My family was so startled that I even wanted a cat that they gave me very little argument. We picked her up the same day we moved into the new house.

The decision has been eminently justified. She is sweet-tempered, quiet, affectionate and serene. She never lashes out at the kids for being too rough with her, even when the C-in-C poked her in her empty eye socket (yes, we took her to the vet, and no, there was no damage). She's still overweight, but we're working on that (having her litter box on the second floor helps). She's not a kitten, so I don't know how long she'll be around (her papers say she's seven years old), but she's settled into the family in a way I never expected.

I still hate cats, don't get me wrong. But every rule has an exception.

Lily sharing her bed with the Squirrel Boy. Oh, wait, it's the other way around....