If Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery, then surely Helen MacInnes is the queen of espionage stories. The Salzburg Connection is based on her novel of the same name.
The film begins with a photographer named Bryant developing shots of Lake Finstersee, then cleverly cuts to him erupting out of the water in a wet suit. In his hand he has a rope. At the other end of the rope is a heavy iron chest. He drags the chest to shore and places it in a knapsack. What he doesn’t realise is that he is being watched by two men hidden in an old World War II Nazi bunker on the opposite shore. As he turns, he catches a sunlight glint from the telescope lens – and realises he is in trouble. He quickly runs off with his haul. But it isn’t long before two men catch up with him (however, by this stage he has hidden the chest). The two men question him about the trunk, but Bryant refuses to talk. Then things get rough. Bryant is kicked backward and his head strikes a rock killing him.
The story moves to the city of Salzburg, and focuses on William Mathison (Barry Newman), a lawyer for New York publishing company, Newhart and Morris. He is walking through the streets as the church bells play. Little does he know he is being followed. He goes to Bryant’s photographic store seeking him. Bryant (as you’re aware) is not there. His wife, Anna (Anna Karina) is holding the fort with her brother, Johann (Klaus-Maria Brandauer).
Mathison explains that he is working for Newhart and Morris, and something peculiar is going on. It appears that Bryant received an advance for a photographic book about the Austrian Lakes – but the publishers have never heard of him, and did not pay the advance. Mathison, who was holidaying in Switzerland at the time, was asked if he could look into the matter. Something rather fishy is going on.
But if the publishers didn’t pay Bryant to take photos of the lake, who did? Mathison and Anna become the innocent pawns fighting, not only for their lives, but to understand what is going on around them as multiple factions all compete to acquire the chest (and the contents within).
The film starts of quite lively enough and serves up quite a few good suspenseful sequences, most notably, on a chair lift and a rather unusual car chase, after Anna had been kidnapped. But, and it’s quite deliberate on the film-makers part, the characters are ill-defined and their allegiances are never explained. This way the viewer does not know who is good or who is bad (and this is very much a film where no-one is exactly who they seem). The problem, however, with this approach, it makes it very hard to sympathize with any of the characters – and therefore care about their fate.
The Salzburg Connection is not a stinker. It is watchable, but at the end of the film, if you can explain who was working for who, then you’ve done better than me.
The Shot is another short sharp tale from the Pro Se Single Shot series – being eBook tales that can be easily read on a Kindle (or eReader) while commuting, or loitering in a waiting room. And best of all they only cost .99c (or around AU $1.07).
As the story is short, I won’t detail the plot, however as a lazy comparison, The Shot is sort of like Rocky IV crossed with an episode of the Twilight Zone. I must admit I didn’t see the twist coming. Good fun. I wish it had gone a bit longer.
The Single Shot series from Pro Se Productions are rapid fire tales that can be read in one or two sittings (and cost only .99c). The key words here are ‘rapid fire’ – as Codename Orchid is a tightly written, fast-paced, high-tech thriller that doesn’t let up till the end.
The story, about a young woman named Regina Cross is split into two narrative strands that meet at the end. The first strand concerns Regina, a young college student, who discovers she is a KGB sleeper agent. The second strand follows Regina – codenamed ‘Orchid’ – as she undertakes a mission to stop weapons grade uranium from falling into enemy hands.
Fans of the television series, Alias – or the film Salt will love this. Sign me up for more Regina Cross spy adventures. Highly recommended.
I am going back a bit this week, for Throwback Thursday. This photo would have been snapped in 1987. This was a throwaway moment during a photoshoot while I was at college. I was playing hobo living under the Bendigo underpass. Most of the shots were dark and deliberately underexposed to give them a grainy dirty look – very little shadow or highlight. What you can’t see is that my face was smeared with dirt and all the empty beer and spirit bottles at my feet. If I remember correctly, Marcel was behind the camera on that day. I am an absolutely dreadful actor and the assignment was a bit of a flop.
This month’s Fight Card release comes from Nathan Walpow, author of the popular Joe Portugal mystery series (www.walpow.com). Fight Card: Push takes us behind the scenes and behind the hoopla of the world of professional wrestling. Here’s the promo spiel.
You’re a ‘jobber’. You make your living by losing in the wrestling ring. You’re a good wrestler, but promoters don’t think you have what it takes to become a superstar. Then Thumper shows up. Big and strong, with a bunny-rabbit gimmick and fans eating out of his hand. His finishing move is called The Thump, and most guys don’t get up from it on their own.
One night, Thumper puts his opponent in the hospital. Not a big deal. Sure, the outcome of a wrestling match is fake. But the ‘bumps’ in the ring can be all too real. Sometimes you get hurt. Part of the territory.
Then it happens again. Only this time, the guy who got ‘thumped’ is tossed into a car like a sack of potatoes. Lou Boone, the promoter who runs Central States Wrestling with an iron fist, knows you saw something and offers you a ‘push’ if you keep your mouth shut.
A push. Every jobber’s dream. To get to win some matches, to get to be on the big cards in the big arenas. You want it more than anything. You begin thinking you imagined the sack-of-potatoes guy – until it happens again.
Now, you have to choose between wrestling fame and doing the right thing. Before this is over, someone else will be dead. And you don’t want it to be you…
Fight Card: Push is based on the short story “Push Comes to Shove,” selected by Lawrence Block for the Best American Mystery Stories series.
I am running a little behind in sharing this – however it’s still worth shouting about. The second Fight Card charity anthology, Fight Card Presents: Battling Mahoney & Other Stories is available from Amazon as an e-book for $2.99 with 100% of the proceeds going to help the family of the late Jory Sherman. A paperback version will follow shortly.
Inside its pages, you’ll find my short story, ‘Abbott & Costello Meet the Brown Bomber’ – a piece of speculative fiction about the famous comedy duo meeting boxing great Joe Louis (as Lou gets ready to film his fight scenes – as Lou the Looper – in Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man).
Battling Mahoney and Other Stories is the second in a series of charity anthologies from the Fight Card authors’ cooperative – a writers’ community featuring many of today’s finest fictioneers – features fifteen rounds of fight fiction from authors James Reasoner, Loren D. Estleman, Len Levinson, Mark Finn, Jeremy L. C. Jones, Michael Zimmer, Marc Cameron, Nik Morton, Marsha Ward, Clay More, Chuck Tyrell, Bowie V. Ibarra, Art Bowshier, and featuring an extensive essay, On Boxing, by Willis Gordon.
Compiled by Paul Bishop and Jeremy L. C. Jones, 100% of the proceeds from these anthologies go directly to an author-in-need or a literacy charity. Words on paper are the life blood of a writer. The writers in this volume were willing to bleed in order to give a transfusion to one of their own – and then continue to bleed to give a transfusion to literacy charities in support of that most precious of commodities…readers. They are true fighters, every one…