Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Book: With Intent To Kill, by George Harmon Coxe (1964)

On a final sweep through Powell’s City of Books, I came upon a sizeable stash of novels by Coxe. I was unfamiliar with his work, which isn’t surprising. I’m not an expert in paperback fiction of the ‘50s and ‘60s, just a fan. I’d already assembled quite a haul so I limited myself to the title that sounded most appealing, “a hardboiled thriller of pursuit and revenge.”

The book is no lost masterpiece or unheralded gem. It’s simply a good story well told. A man accidentally kills another in a traffic accident. He’s cleared in an investigation. But the victim’s brother, a wealthy psychotic, demands satisfaction and stalks our hero to Belize for a final showdown. It turns into a conventional mystery halfway through, but one with a satisfying ending. Coxe’s prose is lean, and like many writers of the era he doesn’t dally. If one of today’s suspense writers used this plot – and they could – the resulting book would be three times as long.

I looked up Coxe’s name online and found very little. He wrote 60-plus novels and a handful of film and TV shows; the cover of this book calls him the “dean of American mystery writers.” Yet he’s largely forgotten now, his works relegated to the back shelves of used book stores. I can’t help but wonder which current big-selling authors await the same fate.

Movie: Queen of Blood (1966)

Also known as PLANET OF BLOOD. Which is not to be confused with Mario Bava’s 1965 PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, even though this film is also about a vampire from another planet. With me so far?

This is one of Roger Corman’s chop jobs, where he created a film to go around special effects footage he’d acquired from a far more expensive Russian movie. The result is slow but atmospheric. Florence Marly makes a striking green-skinned alien bloodsucker. Her costume and performance (especially her movements) seem to have influenced Lisa Marie’s character in the Tim Burton movie MARS ATTACKS! The entire film is often cited as a precursor to ALIEN. I do have to wonder about any future where Dennis Hopper is an astronaut, though.

Miscellaneous: Link

David Kipen has a terrific article in the Atlantic about how the studios’ relentless focus on the global marketplace has led to a dearth of films about American life. A must-read.