This Day In Writing History
On July 24th, 1802, the legendary French writer Alexandre Dumas was born in the village of Villers-Cotterets, Aisne, France. He was half-black like his father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a top general in Napoleon's army.
When he publicly criticized Napoleon's military leadership, the emperor accused him of sedition. Thomas-Alexandre resigned from the army in disgust, and the ensuing scandal ruined the Dumas family.
Alexandre Dumas' father died of stomach cancer when he was three years old, and his mother, Marie-Louise, couldn't provide him with much of an education. However, Dumas loved books and read every one he could get his hands on.
That and his mother's stories of his brave father's adventures as a soldier planted the seeds of his future writing career. He dreamed of heroes and high adventure.
When Dumas was 20 years old, he moved to Paris, where he was employed at the Palais Royal in the office of Louis-Phillipe, the Duc D'Orleans and the future and last king of France.
While working in Paris, Dumas began his literary career, writing articles for magazines and co-writing plays for the theater. In 1829, King Henry III and His Court - his first solo play - was produced and became a great success, as did his second play, Christine.
After writing more successful plays, Dumas turned his attention to novels, as the newspapers and literary magazines of the day offered a lucrative market for serialized novels.
In 1838, Dumas' first novel La Capitaine Paul - a novelization of one of his plays - was published. The success of the book led Dumas to create a studio of sorts dedicated to producing short stories and serial novels, where he worked with assistants and other collaborators.
Dumas continued writing non-fiction, and from 1839 to 1841, he compiled an eight-volume collection of essays about famous crimes and criminals in European history called Celebrated Crimes.
During this time, Dumas married actress Marguerite-Josephine Ferrand, known by her stage name, Ida Ferrier. Though he loved Ida, Dumas was a notorious womanizer.
He would father at least four illegitimate children, one of whom, Alexandre Dumas Jr., would become a fine novelist and playwright himself.
In 1844, Dumas published The Three Musketeers - the first in a three-book trilogy, The D'Artagnan Romances. A fourth book, The Son Of Porthos, aka The Death Of Aramis, was published 13 years after Dumas' death; though it bore his name, it was actually written by Paul Mahalin.
In Dumas' classic swashbuckler, a young man named D'Artagnan sets out to join the King's Musketeers. He meets three of them - Athos, Porthos, and Aramis - and ends up being challenged to a duel by each man.
Just as D'Artagnan's duel with Athos is about to begin, the guards of the evil Cardinal Richelieu arrive and threaten to arrest all the men for dueling. Using his skill as a swordsman, D'Artagnan helps the three Musketeers defeat the guards.
The impressed Musketeers befriend D'Artagnan and offer to take him under their wing. Soon, D'Artagnan runs afoul of the vengeful Cardinal and his beautiful but deadly spy, Milady de Winter.
The Three Musketeers was followed by two more novels - Twenty Years After (1845) and The Vicomte de Bragelonne, aka Ten Years Later (1847). It be adapted numerous times for the stage, screen, radio, and television.
From 1845-46, Alexandre Dumas published, in serial format, what is considered to be his greatest novel, The Count Of Monte Cristo, an epic novel of adventure, betrayal, hope, vengeance, and forgiveness.
It told the story of Edmond Dantes, an honest and loyal man framed for treason by group of conspirators including a romantic rival and a corrupt prosecutor.
Sentenced to life imprisonment, Dantes is befriended by fellow prisoner Abbe Feria - a priest and sage. He becomes Edmond's friend, father figure, and teacher. They work on a plan to tunnel out of prison.
Fourteen years later, Dantes finally escapes from prison. Before he died, the ailing Abbe gave Dantes a map to a treasure he buried on Monte Cristo, an island off the coast of Milan. Dantes finds the treasure.
Now a wealthy man, Dantes buys the island and re-invents himself as a mysterious aristocrat known as the Count of Monte Cristo. He returns to France, where he finds that his former fiancee Mercedes married one of the men who framed him.
Dantes conceives and executes an elaborate plan of vengeance against the conspirators responsible for his imprisonment, then questions the value of his revenge when it threatens to destroy the son of the woman he still loves.
Even though the success of Alexandre Dumas' plays and novels brought him wealth, he spent money lavishly, and his mansion, the Chateau de Monte Cristo, was always filled with friends and hangers-on looking to take advantage of his generosity.
Often broke and in debt, he continued to write more great novels, including another classic swashbuckler, Robin Hood (1863), Dumas' retelling of the story of the legendary outlaw Earl of Huntingdon, his Merry Men, and his love, Maid Marian.
Alexandre Dumas died in 1870 at the age of 68.
Quote Of The Day
"How is it that little children are so intelligent and men so stupid? It must be education that does it." - Alexandre Dumas
Today's video features a reading of the first chapter of Akexandre Dumas' classic novel, The Three Musketeers. Enjoy!
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On July 23rd, 1888, the legendary American mystery writer Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago, Illinois. When he was seven years old, Chandler's Irish mother moved the family to England after they were abandoned by his father, a civil engineer and drunkard.
In England, Chandler's uncle, an affluent lawyer, supported the family. Chandler received his education first at a local school in Upper Norwood, then at Dulwich College, London - the same public college where P.G. Wodehouse and C.S. Forester learned to write.
After graduation, instead of attending university, Chandler traveled throughout Europe, spending time in Paris and Munich. He became a naturalized British citizen so he could take a civil examination, where he would receive the third highest grade ever earned.
Chandler then took an Admiralty job which lasted just over a year. He began his writing career as a poet, and published his first poem during this time. Chandler came to dislike the civil service.
Over his family's objections, he quit and became a reporter for the Daily Express and the Bristol Western Gazette newspapers. He was unsuccessful as a journalist, but did publish some reviews and continued writing poetry.
With a loan from his uncle, Chandler returned to the U.S. and settled in Los Angeles, where he earned a meager living doing menial jobs, including stringing tennis rackets and picking fruit.
Finally, he took a correspondence course in bookkeeping, which he completed ahead of schedule. It enabled him to find decent, steady employment. When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Chandler enlisted in the CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Force).
In France, he fought in the trenches with the Gordon Highlanders, an infantry regiment in the British Army. By the end of the war, he was undergoing training to be a pilot for the RAF. After the war ended, Chandler returned to Los Angeles. He soon fell in love with Cissy Pascal, a married woman 18 years his senior.
Cissy ended her marriage in an amicable divorce, but Chandler's mother didn't approve of their relationship and would not allow them to marry. He had to support both women financially for the next four years. Chandler's mother died in September of 1923. Five months later, in February of 1924, he married Cissy.
By 1932, Raymond Chandler had become a highly paid vice president for the Dabney Oil syndicate. It would only last a year, as his battles with alcoholism and depression took their toll and resulted in his firing. But he got his life back together and decided to try making a living as a writer.
He taught himself how to write pulp fiction, and in 1933, his first short story, Blackmailers Don't Shoot, appeared in Black Mask magazine. For the next several years, he wrote and published stories regularly in pulp fiction magazines.
In 1939, Raymond Chandler's first novel, The Big Sleep, was published. It became a huge success, and introduced the world to Chandler's most famous recurring character - a hard-boiled detective by the name of Philip Marlowe. He was quite different than most gumshoes.
Marlowe was intelligent (college educated) and complex, tough as nails yet sentimental at times, and somewhat fluent in Spanish. He had few friends and a passion for both classical music and the game of chess. If he suspected that a prospective client's job was unethical, he would refuse to take the case.
Chandler's writing style was hard-boiled, fast paced, and filled with clever and lyrical metaphors: The minutes went by on tiptoe, with their fingers to their lips. This distinctive style would be referred to as "Chandleresque."
In The Big Sleep, (the title is a euphemism for death) Philip Marlowe is hired by elderly, wheelchair-bound millionaire General Sternwood. The case seems simple enough: Marlowe must track down a blackmailer who claims that he's owed gambling debts accrued by Sternwood's unstable daughter, Carmen.
Marlowe soon realizes that nothing about the case is as it seems; people surrounding Carmen and the blackmailer start turning up dead, and Marlowe becomes ensnared in a grim and sordid web of murder, madness, and the illegal stag film business.
In 1946, The Big Sleep would be adapted as a feature film starring Humphrey Bogart. Though the novel had to be sanitized considerably for the screen as per Production Code requirements, the film is still considered one of the all time great movies, and rightfully so.
Before the film was made, Chandler's success as a novelist earned him a job as a Hollywood screenwriter. In 1944, he and Billy Wilder wrote the screenplay for the suspense film classic Double Indemnity - an adaptation of James M. Cain's novel.
In 1946, he wrote an original screenplay for a noir thriller called The Blue Dahlia, which starred Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. In 1951, Chandler co-wrote the screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock classic Strangers On A Train - an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel whose story Chandler found implausible.
Raymond Chandler continued to write more classic Philip Marlowe novels, including Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The Lady In The Lake (1943) and The Long Goodbye (1954), which won him an Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1955.
After he completed The Long Goodbye, Chandler's wife Cissy died following a long illness. Her death shattered him, and he plunged into a new battle with his old demons, drink and depression. He attempted suicide in 1955. After recovering in England, Chandler returned to California. He died three years later at the age of 70 from heart and kidney failure.
Quote Of The Day
"I have a sense of exile from thought, a nostalgia of the quiet room and balanced mind. I am a writer, and there comes a time when that which I write has to belong to me, has to be written alone and in silence, with no one looking over my shoulder, no one telling me a better way to write it. It doesn't have to be great writing, it doesn't even have to be terribly good. It just has to be mine." - Raymond Chandler
Today's video features a rare 30-minute BBC Radio interview with Raymond Chandler - conducted by Ian Fleming! Enjoy!
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On July 22nd, 1936, the famous American novelist Tom Robbins was born in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Both his grandfathers were Southern Baptist preachers. The family moved to Virginia in 1947.
At the age of 16, Robbins studied journalism at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, but he dropped out of college when his fraternity expelled him for disciplinary problems.
In 1954, Robbins was drafted into the military. He enlisted in the Air Force and served a two year tour of duty in Korea as a meteorologist. After his discharge, he returned to civilian life, settling in Richmond, Virginia. He became part of the local art scene and hung out with his fellow painters.
In 1957, Robbins enrolled in art school at Richmond Professional Institute, now known as Virginia Commonwealth University. While there, he became the editor of the campus newspaper and worked as a copy editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper.
After art school, Tom Robbins spent a year hitchhiking his way around the country. He settled in New York City and became a poet. In 1961, he moved to San Francisco, then a year later, he moved to Seattle to get a Master's degree at the University Of Washington's School of Far Eastern Studies.
Over the next five years, Robbins worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, first as a sports reporter, then as an arts reviewer. In 1966, he wrote a column for Seattle Magazine and hosted a radio show on KRAB-FM, a non-commercial station in Seattle.
The following year, Robbins went to a concert by legendary rock band The Doors, which was a life-changing experience for him. It was a major factor in his decision to move to La Conner, Washington, and write his first book.
Tom Robbins' first novel, Another Roadside Attraction, was published in 1971. It introduced his trademark writing style - a non-linear narrative filled with offbeat humor and scathing satire. It told the story of John Paul Ziller and his wife Amanda - a hippie guru - who open a combination hot dog stand and zoo called Captain Kendrick's Memorial Hot Dog Wildlife Preserve.
Other weird characters in the novel are a baboon named Mon Cul, a well educated fellow called Marx Marvelous, and L. Westminster "Plucky" Purcell, a football great and part time drug dealer who accidentally uncovers a secret order of monks who work as assassins for the Vatican. Plucky also uncovers a shocking secret dating back to the beginning of Christianity.
Robbins' next novel, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues (1976) featured a main character, Sissy Henshaw, who was born with an unusual birth defect - enormously large thumbs, which she uses to hitchhike around the country. In her travels, Sissy meets and becomes a model for the Countess, a lesbian feminine hygiene product tycoon.
The Countess introduces Sissy to her future husband, a Mohawk Indian named Julian Gitche. Sissy also meets sexually open cowgirl Bonanza Jellybean, and an escapee from a U.S. government Japanese internment camp with the erroneous nickname "The Chink."
In 1993, director Gus Van Sant - a friend of Tom Robbins - adapted Even Cowgirls Get The Blues as a feature film starring Uma Thurman as Sissy Henshaw, John Hurt as the Countess, Rain Phoenix as Bonanza Jellybean, Keanu Reeves as Julian Gitche, and Pat Morita as The Chink.
Tom Robbins has written ten novels so far, including memorable works such as Still Life with Woodpecker (1980) and Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas (1994). His latest novel, B is for Beer, was published in April of 2009.
B is for Beer is classic Robbins. Dubbed "a children's book for grown-ups" and "a grown-up book for children," it's presented in the form of a children's novel. It tells the story of six-year-old Gracie Perkel, who is fascinated by beer, her father's favorite beverage, which she describes as "the stuff that's yellow and looks like pee-pee."
Gracie turns to her favorite uncle, beer-guzzling hippie Uncle Moe, for help. He leads her on a quest to find out all there is to know about beer, then leaves her in the lurch, running off with a woman - a podiatrist he's fallen in love with.
Undaunted, Gracie drinks her first beer, throws up, passes out, and is visited by the Beer Fairy, who teaches her all about the history and production of beer. In a recent interview, Tom Robbins claimed that he wrote B is for Beer as a satirical ode to the brewed beverage:
Kids are constantly exposed to beer. It's everywhere, yet, aside from wagging a warning finger and growling - true enough as it goes - "beer is for grownups," how many parents actually engage their youngsters on the subject? As a topic for detailed family discussion, it's generally as taboo as sex.
As for his next novel, Robbins says, "I've decided to take advantage of outsourcing. My next novel will be written by a couple of guys in Bangalore."
Quote Of The Day
"There is a similarity between juggling and composing on the typewriter. The trick is, when you spill something, make it look like a part of the act." - Tom Robbins
Today's video features Tom Robbins reading from and discussing his most recent novel, B is for Beer. Enjoy!
Monday, July 21, 2014
My sci fi horror flash, “Electrix Love,” has been accepted for a future issue of Literary Hatchet. They like horror and humor, a good combination, a pay $15 for a story, including flash.
I have a poem, “He Didn't Know,” up at Leaves of Ink.
Just in time for the waning of the supermoon, my flash fiction, “New Moon,” is in the Summer 2014 issue of the Mojave River Review.
Jacqueline Seewald had interview of me up on Authors Expression. I discuss my career and books including the newest Murder in Her Dreams, a paranormal mystery.
Joanna M. Weston
My poem, “Jazz Vespers,” up at A Day's Encounter.
It's live! My short story, “Golf Goes On,” up at Infective Ink today.
Friday, July 18, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On July 18th, 1937, the legendary American writer and journalist Hunter S. Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky. The eldest of three sons, Thompson's father was an insurance adjuster, his mother a librarian.
When Hunter was fourteen, his father died of a degenerative disease called myasthenia gravis. His mother was left to raise her sons alone, a burden that would drive her to drink heavily.
From a young age, Hunter displayed a natural talent for athletics. While he attended middle school, he joined an athletic club that served to prepare boys his age to play sports on high school teams.
Although he excelled at baseball, Hunter didn't play any sports in high school, as he was considered a troublemaker and not a team player. So, he joined the school's literary club instead.
There, he became enamored with classic, controversial novels such as J.P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man (1955) and Jack Kerouac's On The Road (1957), attracted to their subversive nature.
When he was seventeen, Thompson happened to be riding in a car with a robber when the police pulled them over. Although he had no connection to the crime, Thompson was arrested and charged with being an accessory. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, but only served half that time.
While Hunter was in jail, the school superintendent refused to allow him to take his final exams, so he never graduated. After his release, he joined the Air Force.
Stationed at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida, Hunter took night classes at Florida State University. He also landed his first professional writing job for the local Command Courier newspaper. He got the job by lying about his work experience.
Nevertheless, Hunter excelled as a sports writer and editor, covering the local football team, the Elgin Eagles, whom future pro football stars Bart Starr, Max McGee, and Zeke Bratkowski would play for.
After being honorably discharged by the Air Force, Hunter continued his journalism career, which took him East to New York City. There, while working as a copy boy for Time magazine, he typed out copies of novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway as a means of studying fiction.
Fired by Time for insubordination, Hunter moved upstate to Middletown, where he worked as a reporter for the Middletown Record. He was fired from that job for telling off a local restaurant owner who was one of the paper's advertisers.
In 1961, Hunter, following in the footsteps of his literary idol Jack Kerouac, hitchhiked across the country. While living in Big Sur, California, he published his first magazine article, a piece on the Beat literary and artistic scene in Big Sur.
At this time, Thompson began writing fiction. He wrote two novels, Prince Jellyfish and The Rum Diary, which wouldn't be published until the late 1990s. He also wrote many short stories, but found little success as a fiction writer.
In November of 1963, Hunter first coined his famous phrase "fear and loathing" in a letter to his old friend, legendary novelist William Kennedy, expressing his feelings about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. (No relation.)
Two years later, Hunter S. Thompson took an assignment that would make his name as both a maverick journalist and as a writer. The editor of The Nation, a prominent liberal news magazine, asked him to write about the notorious Hell's Angels motorcycle gang.
So, Hunter spent a year riding with the gang, which was the most feared motorcycle club in the country, accused of crimes such as drug trafficking and gunrunning. The Hell's Angels hated reporters, but they came to like Hunter S. Thompson.
The relationship ended at a party held to celebrate the publication of Hunter's book, Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. The Hell's Angels demanded a cut of the royalties, but Hunter refused.
When Thompson learned that one gang member called Junkie George was a wife-beater, he told the biker off in front of the rest of the gang, saying that "Only a punk beats his wife." The gang beat Thompson severely.
His Hell's Angels book received rave reviews. The New York Times said that it was an "angry, knowledgeable, fascinating and excitedly written book," and that its author was a "spirited, witty, observant and original writer; his prose crackles like motorcycle exhaust."
In the late 1960s, Hunter wrote many articles for national magazines. One of them, titled The Hashbury is the Capital of the Hippies criticized the hippie generation for lacking the political convictions of the New Left and the artistic fire of the Beat generation and for only being interested in drugs and free love.
Possessing strong political convictions, Hunter became an activist for the New Left. He signed the Writers and Editors War Tax Protest, a pledge to refuse to pay taxes to support the Vietnam War.
One of his heroes was the legendary Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Though he would rarely label his political beliefs, he would retain his strong anti-capitalist convictions throughout his life.
In the 1970s, Hunter developed his trademark style of "gonzo journalism," which began with his article The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved. He accepted an assignment from Sports Illustrated to cover a motorcycle race in Las Vegas, and ended up writing his most famous book in the process.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) was an autobiographical novel based on Hunter's coverage of both the race and a narcotics officers' convention in Sin City. His alter ego, journalist Raoul Duke, covers the convention along with his "300-pound Samoan attorney" Oscar "Dr. Gonzo" Zeta Acosta.
The two men traveled together in a car loaded with an ample supply of drugs of all sorts, and were frequently stoned. A major theme of the novel was the ultimate failure of the late 1960s American counterculture, which would vanish by the mid 1970s.
In 1972, Thompson covered the presidential election in a series of articles for Rolling Stone that would be published in book form as Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. He loathed then President Richard Nixon.
He described Nixon as a man who "could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time... an evil man — evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it."
Thompson later accepted an assignment from Rolling Stone to cover the last days of the Vietnam War. He traveled to Saigon and found the country in chaos. When publisher Jann Wenner canceled the assignment without notice, Thompson found himself trapped in Vietnam without an expense account or health insurance.
In the 1980s, Hunter covered such famous events as the U.S. invasion of Grenada and the scandalous Roxanne Pulitzer divorce. In the 1990s, he wrote two noted fictional pieces. One was based on his interview with Bill Clinton, the other a protest against Clarence Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court.
By then, he had become a something of a recluse. His popularity soared again with the release of the acclaimed 1998 feature film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, starring Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke and Benicio Del Toro as Dr. Gonzo.
Hunter's long lost novel The Rum Diary was published, along with two collections of letters. In 2003, a new book, Kingdom of Fear, was published, which contained new writings and classic pieces, serving primarily as an angry attack on post 9/11 America.
After suffering from numerous medical problems, including illnesses and a hip replacement, Hunter S. Thompson was left in poor health and chronic, often severe pain. Unable to take it any longer, he committed suicide in February of 2005 at the age of 67.
At the private funeral ceremony attended by nearly 300 people and paid for by Johnny Depp, Thompson's ashes were shot out of a cannon to the tunes of Norman Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky and Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man.
Quote Of The Day
"Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives... and to the good life, whatever it is and wherever it happens to be." - Hunter S. Thompson
Today's video features a 1978 BBC documentary on Hunter S. Thompson. Enjoy!
Thursday, July 17, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On July 17th, 1889, the legendary American mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner was born in Malden, Massachusetts. After graduating high school in 1909, he entered the Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana.
Gardner later dropped out and moved to California, where he became a self-taught attorney and passed the California state bar exam.
He opened his own law practice, but later gave it up and went to work for a sales agency for five years before returning once again to practice law in 1921.
Gardner was creative and restless by nature. Bored by routine legal practice, he enjoyed trial work, especially planning his strategy for defending his clients.
He took up writing as a hobby and sold short stories to pulp magazines, cutting his teeth just as his fellow mystery writers Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler had done.
In his short stories, Gardner created many popular series characters, including gentleman thief Lester Leith and crusading lawyer Ken Corning. But they weren't his most famous characters.
In 1933, Gardner's first novel was published. The Case Of The Velvet Claws was also his first novel to feature a character who would become one of the greatest literary icons of all time - Perry Mason.
A brilliant and cunning defense attorney and sleuth, in his first adventure, Mason crosses paths with the spoiled, philandering wife of a rich and powerful man.
The amoral woman is determined to keep her affairs a secret and retain her life of luxury - even if she has to frame Perry Mason for murder to do it!
The Case Of The Velvet Claws became a huge success. By 1937 - four years after it was published - Erle Stanley Gardner quit his law practice to write full time.
Many of his Perry Mason novels were published in serialized form in The Saturday Evening Post, then in book form. Sixteen of them appeared in condensed form in the Toronto Star Weekly.
Gardner wrote over 80 Perry Mason novels during his career, which would sell over 300,000,000 copies combined. He also published mystery novels featuring other characters such as Terry Clane and Gramps Wiggins, short story collections, and a series of non-fiction books.
Perry Mason remains Gardner's most popular character to this day. Always determined to see justice done, while defending his clients, Mason worked tirelessly to solve the crimes of which they were accused.
Mason made his feature film debut in the 1930s. In 1943, a Perry Mason radio mystery series premiered and ran for twelve years. Fourteen years later, Perry Mason made the jump to television
The acclaimed TV series starred Raymond Burr as Perry Mason, defending his clients and solving crimes with the help of his private investigator Paul Drake (William Hopper) and his secretary, Della Street (Barbara Hale).
The Perry Mason TV series ran for nine years. Erle Stanley Gardner made an uncredited appearance in the final episode, playing a judge. Raymond Burr would return for a whopping 30 Perry Mason made-for-tv movies that aired between 1985 and 1995.
When he wasn't writing about him, Erle Stanley Gardner became a real life Perry Mason in his spare time, donating thousands of hours to a project called The Court of Last Resort.
The project was dedicated to helping those suspected of being wrongly convicted of crimes as the result of poor legal representation or careless or malicious police work or prosecutorial misconduct.
The Court of Last Resort focused mostly on forensics, specifically the mishandling and misinterpretation of forensic evidence due to ineptitude or malice on the part of investigators or prosecutors.
Gardner was assisted in his project by his many friends in the forensic, investigative, and legal communities. In 1952, Gardner published a non-fiction account of his work for The Court of Last Resort, which won him an Edgar Award in the Best Fact Crime category.
Five years later, in 1957, Gardner produced a TV series based on his work with The Court of Last Resort. Unfortunately, it would only run for one season.
Erle Stanley Gardner died in 1970 at the age of 80. His famous character Perry Mason remains a major iconic figure in popular culture.
In his 1995 album Ozzmosis, legendary rock singer Ozzy Osbourne paid tribute to Gardner's attorney and sleuth in the song Perry Mason, which became a hit single:
Who can we get on the case?
We need Perry Mason
Someone to put you in place
Calling Perry Mason again...
Quote Of The Day
"It's a damn good story. If you have any comments, write them on the back of a check." - Erle Stanley Gardner on his first Perry Mason novel, The Case Of The Velvet Claws.
Today's video features Erle Stanley Gardner on the classic 1950s game show, What's My Line?. Enjoy!
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On July 16th, 1951, The Catcher in the Rye, the classic novel by the legendary American writer J.D. Salinger, was published. Salinger's poignant coming-of-age story opens with teenage student Holden Caulfield being expelled from Pencey Prep, his boarding school in Pennsylvania.
Highly intelligent but mentally disturbed, the angry, alienated Holden believes that his fellow students and his teachers are all a bunch of phonies. After an altercation with his roommate, Holden packs up and leaves school in the middle of the night.
He takes a train back to New York City, but doesn't want to go home to his parents, so he checks into the shabby Edmont Hotel instead. There, he dances with some tourist girls, has a clumsy encounter with a prostitute, and is beaten by her pimp when he refuses to pay her more than the agreed upon amount.
Holden spends the next two days wandering around the city, drunk and lonely. He sneaks into his parents' apartment while they're out so he can visit his precocious ten-year-old little sister Phoebe - the only family member that he can communicate with.
He shares with her a fantasy (based on a misinterpretation of Robert Burns' Comin' Through The Rye) where he watches over children playing in a rye field near the edge of a cliff. He must make sure that they don't wander too close to the edge; he must become a "catcher in the rye" and protect them from falling off the cliff.
After leaving his parents' apartment, Holden visits his old English teacher, Mr. Antolini, who offers him a place to sleep and gives him a speech about life - while guzzling highballs. He compliments Holden's good looks.
Later that night, Holden is awakened to find Mr. Antolini stroking his head in a "flitty" way. Holden describes this as "something perverty." Mr. Antolini's marriage may be a sham to conceal his true nature.
When Holden tells Phoebe that he plans to move out West, she wants to go with him. He refuses to take her, which upsets her greatly, so he tells her that he won't move. The book ends with Holden taking Phoebe to the Central Park Zoo.
Watching with melancholy joy while she rides the carousel, he alludes to possible future events, including "getting sick" and being committed to a mental hospital, and attending another school in September. That's just a bare outline of The Catcher in the Rye.
You must read this novel for yourself. One of the greatest American novels of the 20th century and o0ne of the most controversial, the American Library Association (ALA) has listed it as the 13th most challenged book from 1990-2000 and one of the ten most challenged books of 2005.
The complaints range from profanity - including words such as goddamn and fuck - to blasphemy. Opponents of the book have also complained about the undermining of family values - Holden Caulfield being a poor role model who promotes rebellion, smoking, drinking, lying, and promiscuity.
In 1989, Shelley Keller-Gage, a high school teacher in Boron, California, was fired after some disgruntled parents complained about her placement of The Catcher in the Rye on her students' assigned reading list. She was later reinstated.
Throughout his life, J.D. Salinger rebuffed attempts at adapting his classic novel for the stage and screen. When his short story Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut was adapted as a film called My Foolish Heart, great liberties were taken with the story.
The film, which Salinger hated, turned out to be a critical and commercial failure. He vowed that no more of his works would be adapted. In 1961, Salinger denied legendary film and stage director Elia Kazan permission to adapt The Catcher in the Rye as a Broadway play.
Acclaimed filmmakers from Billy Wilder to Steven Spielberg to Harvey Weinstein expressed great interest in directing a feature film adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye. Many great actors have expressed great interest in playing Holden Caulfield.
Big name actors from Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson to Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio have coveted the role of Salinger's antihero. John Cusack said that after he turned 21, he regretted that he had become too old to play Holden.
Ever since J.D. Salinger died in January of 2010 at the age of 91, speculation has run rampant that a feature film adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye will finally be made. Until then, everyone should read the novel, which is one of the all-time classic works of literature.
Quote Of The Day
“An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's.” - J.D. Salinger
Today's video features a complete reading of J.D. Salinger's classic novel, The Catcher In The Rye. Enjoy!