Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Cable Catch-Up: The Seven-Ups (1973)

Producer Philip D’Antoni wanted to make another tough New York thriller after his Oscar-winning success with THE FRENCH CONNECTION. So he hired himself as director, brought back Roy Scheider, and asked real-life detective Sonny Grosso (the inspiration for Scheider’s character in FRENCH) to provide the story. The result is a cop movie that’s all balls and no brains. It’s a STARSKY & HUTCH episode inflated to two hours. There is one hell of a car chase, though.

Book: The Poker Club, by Ed Gorman (1999)

Four poker buddies accidentally kill a burglar who breaks in during their game. They decide to dispose of the body without informing the police, unaware that the intruder had a partner. Who begins stalking them.

The novel is an expansion of Gorman’s short story “Out There In The Darkness.” He sucks you into this nightmare in short order. He has a pulp master’s inherent feel for story, along with a deceptively simple prose style reminiscent of Stephen King’s. Digressions on pop culture and memory catch you by surprise with their emotional force.

A few months ago, Ed praised another suspense novel of this stripe, James Siegel’s DERAILED. That book didn’t work for me, largely because of a preposterous plot twist. But it also wasn’t grounded in reality the way THE POKER CLUB is. The characters’ decisions have a relentless grim logic, which only tightens the book’s grip.

A movie version of DERAILED is in the works, by the way. The main character is a regular guy who gets in over his head when he starts cheating on his wife. He will be played by Clive Owen. The man who was King Arthur, and who may yet be James Bond. Not my first choice to play a schmuck from Long Island.