Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Book: Killing Time, by Donald E. Westlake (1961)

Bill Crider and I may not be in complete agreement about Paul Malmont’s novel The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. But he has much to teach me. When he recommends a paperback – particularly a vintage Donald E. Westlake – I listen.

Time is about a private detective in a corrupt New York burg who maintains his independence by holding onto secrets. When reformers come to town, he finds himself in the crosshairs. Bill’s right to compare this book to Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest. But its genial cynicism is pure Westlake. As the detective puts it, if the town works, who cares if the powers that be skim a little off the top?

And that ending ... man. Great, tough stuff.

Miscellaneous: My Magazine Issues

Rosemarie said it best: “Entertainment Weekly changed its layout and now I can’t read it anymore.”

I always knew EW was a silly rag. Frivolous, even. Its heyday, back when Jada Pinkett (not yet Smith) cited its pop culture savvy in Scream 2 as the reason why she’d stay alive (she didn’t), is long past, but it was still fun to read. Until the redesign brought its weaknesses to the fore.

EW is like that vapid friend you hang out with because at least it knows the value of a good time. Then that friend gets botox and collagen injections, and it becomes impossible to ignore how shallow it is. So much so that you become retroactively annoyed about all the time you squandered on it in the past.

Now there’s not a smart mass-market film magazine left in the U.S. When it comes to movies new and old, I find more insight and passion through the round-ups in GreenCine Daily.

I should say something nice about the doomed format of weeklies. The June 19 issue of The New Yorker includes a lengthy, fascinating article on port security by William Finnegan. (Read his book Cold New World, you’ll thank me later.) He reports on the influence that On The Waterfront still has on those who make their living in New York Harbor, then reveals an amazing tidbit. Tom Hanley, the newly elected shop steward at a major freight terminal in New Jersey, appeared in the movie as a child. He played the kid who tends to Terry Malloy’s pigeons ... until Terry agrees to cooperate with the law. Hanley never acted in movies again. Instead, he lived out On The Waterfront for real.