War Songs: Scorn of the Women

Scorn of the Women – Weddings Parties Anything

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Overcoming: The Nature of Heroes

Eagle 200Hands up if you have heard of ‘The Eagle’. Not many people have. Counter espionage agent, Jeff Shannon – known as ‘The Eagle’ was a pulp character from the late 1930′s / early 1940′s. He didn’t really take off – only appearing in a handful of stories – but recently he has been revived for The New Adventures of the Eagle, a title from Pro Se and Altus Press’ Pulp Obscura line.

Intrigued, I read the book, which contains six new Eagle adventures. It was a fine collection of stories, but one really stood out for me, “The Coming Storm”, written by Teel James Glenn.

Anyway, Teel and I got a talkin’ – and I ended up asking him if he would like to do a guest post on P2K to talk about his latest project The First Synn: The Bloodstone Confidential. But he decided to take a different approach. You can read it below. Take it away, Teel…

* * *

When David Foster, maestro of P2K, extended the invitation for me to write a guest blog, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say to a new group of readers. At my height, I don’t really have to get on a soapbox to make a point, but I thought it a good opportunity for a virtual one.

Rather than talk specifically about the hero, Gideon Synn, in my new series from Pro Se, the first of which is The First Synn: The Bloodstone Confidential, I thought I would talk about the concept of what it is to be a hero.

The concept of heroes has been greatly distorted in our present world; in today’s society thugs who can run fast with a ball are prized above educators, artists, scientists or healers. Celebrity and infamy have supplanted famous and deserving of admiration for far too long.
I felt compelled to write about what it is to really be a hero in a literary sense.

True, sports stars have always been admired as achievers of the near impossible – at least to most – but in past societies that status was linked to good citizenship, ethics and a sense that their skills – however hard they worked to hone them – were somehow a gift of a higher power to be shared, not a skill to be exploited at the cost of others.

Along with this distortion of what it is to be a hero has come a rise in the of the status of the bad guys – the anti-hero and villain – to the status of hero.

True, some of that came from a series we all love, The James Bond books and films. In them, of course, Bond is the knight without armor, fighting for the right by using the methods of the bad guys. He has a license to kill, to womanize and to drink to excess – yet he is clearly the good guy. He does these things because he is a flawed and many faceted human being but there is absolutely no mistaking that he is working for the good. Rosa Klebb, Hugo Drax, Auric Goldfinger, Blofeld and Scaramanga are the baddies for sure. No attempt to excuse or sympathize with them happens – to understand them, yes, but not to make the reader agree with them. They are villains, plain and simple.

There is a school of thought that says villains are more interesting than heroes; that Dracula is more fascinating than Van Helsing, Butch Cavendish more intriguing than The Lone Ranger or the Joker more delightful for the audience to spend time with than Batman.

I say no; resoundingly NO!

I say that if a reader finds a man who kills, maims and then laughs about it more satisfying than one who tries to prevent said mayhem they are flawed beyond recovery or the writer has failed in his/her job in presenting the charters in context.

No villain should remain unexplained, it is true, but that does not excuse their villainy, just humanize the monster to make him more understandable and his connection to the hero more tangible. All drama is, ultimately some sort of morality play, after all.

With this raise in the villains’ status has come corresponding devaluation of the hero, claiming them to be grey and boring.

What has allowed this mistaken image of heroes as bland, uninteresting cardboard cut outs, this complete reversal of all that holds society together?

Was it the Hayes Code that demanded such flawless heroes that they could not be human and strive to overcome human failings? The church groups who refused to acknowledge their own base doctrines, which talk about the very need for flawed humans to try for the godhead as a daily goal? Did they ignore the fact that few of the holy writings of any religion talk of unblemished existence as a norm – it is always a daily goal to be worked for, our human nature to be overcome?

Perhaps all three reasons – and others – connected to create this general decline in personal responsibility and self-awareness.

When fire happens and a building is engulfed, who is truly more interesting to spend time with; the giggling psycho who lit the fire and watches a ten year old burn to death or a normal healthy and fearful person who, despite the danger and possibility of their own destruction runs toward the fire?

Think hard – your answer could get you committed.

But seriously folks: a protagonist might delight in a child’s death – and if it were a horror story be the person we follow through the story to its conclusion, but the hero is always the person running to try and save the child.

And here in lies some of the problem; people mistake hero for protagonist and vice versa far too often.

Hannibal Lecture was a sick SOB who ate people and delighted in other’s suffering; he wasn’t the ‘hero’ of Silence of the Lambs – or even Hannibal the sequel; he was the protagonist.

In the first book (I have problems with the sequel even having been written/filmed but that’s just me), Clarice is the heroic figure but not an unflawed or bland character. She has a complex of failings and weaknesses that she strives to overcome and that is what makes her a hero.

She overcomes.

Websters defines hero as: A: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability. B: An illustrious warrior. C: a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities. D: the Principle male character in a literary or dramatic work.

A hero does not sweep in and, with no problems or questions about what he/she does, solve all that must be solved – if he did it would be the blank and flat line boring that far too many people think a hero is. No, conflict is the essence of all drama and so it must be with a hero as well. Inner conflict is as important-perhaps more so than storming the castle is the reason why it is stormed!

A hero must have something at stake and something to overcome or it is not drama.

People who favor the ‘anti-hero’ concept that was popularized with such furor in the 1960’s cinema because film critics (don’t get me started on that jaded group) had decided that role models were passé – forget that it was not a new concept and is based on a faulty assumption.

Hercules of classical myth (definition A) is a hero because he overcomes his own personal faults. He is really an anti-hero by that very modern definition. He is a drunk, he kills his family in a fit of madness and spends a guilt-ridden life trying to make up for that. Not a bland fellow at all. But he tries to do good, and that is the thing that makes him a hero (definition C). In fact, in a ‘Hollywood’ happy ending, his good works get him elevated to demi-god hood!

The faulty assumption is that heroes just do what they do and are not affected; but in fact they have to take what Joseph Campbell called ‘the Hero’s Journey’ – moving from point A to their end point in a story and growing or evolving in someway or, by definition they are not heroes. Heroes doubt, have their moment of weakness, their ‘human’ moment just as villains, to be fully human, must have theirs. (Hitler was good to his dogs, the original Blackbeard was Joan of Arc’s sidekick and protector and Dracula was a patriot for his homeland before he became a human mosquito).

As a writer I feel obligated to connect with those human portions of both sides of the moral wall or I feel I’m cheating my readers and not doing my job of presenting a ‘complete’ world for them to journey to. Yet for me, I really don’t want to spend more time with unpleasant people than I have to. My rule of thumb is, would I want to spend a ten-minute elevator ride with any given character, say Blofeld, Lecter or Dracula? No. Then why spend more time with them on the page than I have to?

This brings us to definition D.

I confess, my criteria are narrow by some definitions but it’s my party, I’ll smile if I want to … or something like that.

At the same time, nobody, including me likes a stuffed shirt’ and I don’t want my heroes to be that way either. Thus, while I may want them to be a hero, I need them to be flawed so I, a flawed human, can connect with them. Like Bond, who is about as flawed as they come, a hero does not have to be a church deacon, but, I feel, he has to be trying to be, to some extent.

I still want them to be better than me; more able to withstand temptation, more able to endure pain etc. because else, why am I reading about them? But just enough so that I can believe and connect with them.

And I want my villains to be less than me, expressing the darkness I fear either externally or in some dark corner of my own soul that I want to conquer.

And this may be where I differ from much of the world at large; I do not delight in seeing people worse off than me as a way to make myself feel superior. (No, I do not watch Japanese game shows to see people get pasted!)

And that may be why those aforementioned critics liked so-called anti-heroes. Maybe in their mind, following the adventures of rapists, killers and perverts that they made their ‘heroes’ has made them feel better about being flawed.

Me, I’d rather look up to the heavens than down in the mud even though I never forget that even the demi-gods have to stand in that mud.

How about you?

About the Author

BloodstoneTeel James Glenn has written on theater, stunts and swashbuckling related subject matter for national magazines like: Aces, Black Belt, Echoes, and Fantastic Worlds of E.R.B. and fiction for MAD, Weird Tales, Peculiar Stories, Pro Se Presents, Fantasy Tales, Afterburns, Another Realm Blazing Adventures!, Tales of Old and other magazines.

He has 30 books in print including The First Synn: The Bloodstone Confidential and a story in The New Adventures of the Eagle, both from Pro Se Productions.

He received the Pulp Ark Award for best author in 2012.
You can keep up on his adventures at theurbanswashbuckler.com.

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Superseven: Hard Kill in Fresno

The Superseven team keep going from strength to strength. In late September the series had its 2,000,000th hit on Youtube. Congratulations guys!

Last week, the thirty-sixth episode, ‘Hard Kill in Fresno’ was released. Here it is…

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Poster of the Day: She 4

Poster - She (1935)_09

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Front Page Palooka: Book Trailer

The latest Fight Card tale, Front Page Palooka – from Anthony Venutolo, writing as Jack Tunney – is now available at Amazon.

But to whet your appetite, here’s the book trailer.

And here’s the spiel:

Newark, New Jersey, 1954

Years of fight halls and newsrooms have east coast sportswriter, Nick Moretti, looking for a change. When a sloppy hustle goes bad, and Nick takes a bullet in the shoulder, it’s time to go west. Hired by Pinnacle Pictures to write a boxing movie about troubled heavyweight champ Jericho ‘Rattlesnake’ McNeal, Nick joins forces with sexy public relations gal, Dillian Dawson, for a cross-country tour to give an everyman boxer an unlikely shot at the world title – what could go wrong?

From the crackling neon of Hollywood and Sin City, through the steamy Delta, and on to Chi-Town, the glitzy dream becomes a noir nightmare, and newshound Nick Moretti is about to commit a reporter’s greatest sin – becoming a Front Page Palooka … Another great two-fisted Fight Card tale!

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War Songs: I Was Only 19

I Was Only 19 – Redgum

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From Pro Se With Love

ProSe 500

It’s no secret I have written a few adrenaline-fuelled stories for Pro Se Productions, which will be unleashed on the un-suspecting world in the coming months, stretching into next year. Some of the stories I can’t talk about yet – loose lips sink ships – but among them, for an exciting new project called Pulse Fiction, (brainchild of Paul Bishop and Tommy Hancock) is a rattling adventure story, “Honor of the Legion”. Believe me, if you read and enjoyed Fight Card: Rumble in the Jungle (and why wouldn’t you), this story is gonna blow your socks off!

Anyway, as an introduction and a welcome to Pro Se, the following piece crossed my desk from writer I.A. Watson. As I read it, I was grinning from ear to ear and had to share it. Here it is, a day in the life of a writer at Pro Se Productions. Thanks Ian.

So I walk into the offices of Pro Se Productions, toss my hat across the room onto the hatstand, and smile raffishly at the bespectacled-but-beautiful brunette behind the secretary’s desk.

“Ian,” she gasps, flushing slightly. “I didn’t know you were back from Marrakech.”

“Just this morning, doll,” I tell her. I nod my head towards the inner door. “How’s the Old Man? Any idea what he called me in for this time?”

“Sorry, Ian. You know how it works. I can’t give you anything.” Then she blushes properly.

I perch on the edge of her desk, pushing aside proof copies of Hugh Monn P.I.: Catch a Rising Star, leaning forward to give her my best slantways grin. “C’mon, toots. I’ve been away. What’d I miss?”

“The usual,” she relents. “Black Pulp came out. Did pretty well. The Old Man stopped drinking for a whole afternoon. Nancy Hansen’s recovering nicely after the damage she sustained researching The Hunters of Greenwood. She’ll be back on solid foods any day now, and the book was worth it. A new issue of Pro Se Presents, a volume of Pulptress stories… Barry Reece turned in Lazarus Gray: Eidolon, which turned out pretty good even though it was all written on the back of blood-stained wanted posters. Nothing unusual though.”

There’s a rumbling from the inner office. “Is that Watson?” comes the rough deep tones of Pro Se Production’s EIC. “Send him in. If he tries to run, staple him to a desk.”

“H will see you now,” the brunette tells me. “Good luck, Ian.”

I shoot her a wink and saunter past the big framed cover-shots of Jim Anthony, Super-Detective, Brother Bones, and Torahg the Warrior, through the frosted-glazed door with the “Abandon All Hope” sign thumbtacked to the threshold, into the dark cavern beyond.

It all comes back to me: the sour whiskey smell, the stacks of manuscripts daggered to the table, the wall-trophies that I strongly suspected were body parts of writers who’d missed deadlines. I’d been here before. I’d survived.

And there, positioned so the light slatted across his face and shadowed his eyes, the man himself: Tommy Hancock, watching me, assessing, plotting.

“Welcome back, English,” he tells me. “How’d it go?”

“It’s taken care of.”

“The whole thing?”

I toss a thick manuscript down in front of him. “65,128 words, 35 essays on weird stuff and writing. I call it Where Stories Dwell. Satisfied?”

He leans forward to thumb through the document. The shadows move with him, still keeping his face covered. “Maybe. I’ll let you know.”

“What next?”

I know there’ll be an assignment – something tough and obscure, probably dangerous and painful. The Old Man had handed me Richard Knight, the flyboy detective, to put together “The Hostage Academy” for The New Adventures of Richard Knight volume 1, “The Last Flight of Captain Tennyson” for volume 2, and “The Plague God Laughs” for some other top-secret project I wasn’t even cleared to know about. He’d called me for the title story of The New Adventures of Armless O’Neil: Blood-Price of the Missionary’s Gold, which had taken me to the heart of darkness in the Belgian Congo. I’d had to delve into dark supernatural doings about “The Curse of Urania” for the weird mystic investigator Semi-Dual. Last time it had been a flirtation with superhero girlfriends in “He Died”, a short story for another of Pro Se’s mysterious projects.

Whatever H wanted, it wouldn’t be run of the mill. And it would hurt.

Hancock pushes a grainy black and white photo across to me. “Know him?”

I look at the image. Shock-haired guy, devil-beard, spectacles, stab-you-if-you-say-the-wrong-thing glint in his eye. “That’s David Foster,” I reply. “Except he calls himself James Hopwood when he’s taking care of business. There’s a list of the stuff he’s done on his blog site Permission to Kill. I link to it off my author website.”

“Right. Well he wants some Pro Se stuff on that blog. Not just adverts. Proper articles. Features.”

“He wants something from me?”

“I want something from you, Watson. Something interesting. Something novel. And I want product placement. Make sure you work in Pro Se titles – like Jason Kahn’s Badge of Lies, or Senorita Scorpion, or The Family Grace, all available from http://prose-press.com/pro-se-store/, or through online retailers, and from those bookstores where I’ve got compromising pictures of the operators. Got it?”

I fold the photo into my pocket. “Any rules?” I check. “Any limits?”

“Are there ever?” H snarls at me. “Get it done.”

A slow smile creeps across my face. “Whatever it takes, boss.”

I.A. Watson is a freelance writer operating out of Yorkshire, England. He’s authored four award-shortlisted novels and a whole load of short stories, all described at his website http://www.chillwater.org.uk/writing/iawatsonhome.htm. He’s not claiming that Tommy Hancock is really like he’s depicted in the piece here; after all, he knows where the bodies are buried.

Watson

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Poster of the Day: She 3

Poster - She (1935)_08

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Payback

PaybackDirector: Brian Helgeland (and reshoots by John Myhre)
Starring: Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, James Coburn, Kris Kristoferson, Willaim Devane, Bill Duke, Lucy Liu, David Paymer, Deborah Kara Unger, Jack Conley
Music: Chris Boardman
Based on the novel ‘The Hunter’ by Donald E. Westlake (under the pseudonym Richard Stark).

The book, The Hunter on which this film is based, was previously filmed as John Boorman’s classic sixties crime film, Point Blank, which starred Lee Marvin. When I first heard that they were remaking it, I was pretty disgusted. There is certainly nothing wrong with the original. Why remake it? I saw it as another example of Hollywood’s lack of imagination.

When I finally saw Payback I wasn’t too impressed. To begin with, it’s opening scene features a bullet riddled Mel Gibson lying on a table. The dodgy doctor, who is about to patch him up, takes a long, long swallow from a glass of scotch, then refills the glass. This time he drops his operating tools (scalpels and the like) into the glass. At the time of viewing I had just finished reading Mickey Spillane’s The Black Alley. In the book, Mike Hammer has been shot up (again), and has to be patched up by an alcoholic ex-doctor. You know the kind, the ones you have been crossed off the medical register, because they botched an operation and the patient died. Now they drink to forget. Added to that, the next book I started reading was Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, in which Jason Bourne is patched by a drunken doctor. Clichés are a funny thing. Sometimes you don’t notice them until you are hit over the head two or three times in a row.

For me, at that time, another ‘drunken doctor’ story device was an unwelcome cliché. And let’s face it, it’s a hoary old chestnut to begin with, featured in numerous crime films from the 1940’s (the Humphrey Bogart movie, Dark Passage springs to mind).

Then I thought back to Point Blank and tried what recall how Lee Marvin had recovered from the bullet wounds. Actually we don’t see how Marvin got patched up. In fact we don’t see how he got off Alcatraz Island (for those who haven’t seen Point Blank, that’s where Marvin’s character is double-crossed and shot). Naturally for a tough guy like Lee Marvin, no explanation is necessary. It’s a given that he will survive.

That brings us back to Payback. On my first viewing my vision was cloudy by the crap clichéd opening. Added to that Gregg Henry and Lucy Liu’s characters have a very weird, violent sexual relationship going on. It added an element of sleaze to the film that wasn’t necessary. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy the film too much.

But years have passed, and I sat down to watch Payback again. This time, I just let the film wash right over me. It’s been a few years since I have seen Point Blank, so Lee Marvin’s long shadow has diminished somewhat, and I know the film is a clichéd mess, so all that’s left to do is to enjoy the film for what it is…a piece of B-grade trash, with an A-grade budget. And I must confess I did enjoy the film, but I looked at it more as a quasi film-noir, rather than a remake. And hey, maybe appropriating ‘noir’ elements like the drunken doctor were in keeping with the type of film they were making.

So what’s it all about? Mel Gibson is Porter (no first name). Porter is a career criminal who steals things. He teams up with Val Resnick (Gregg Henry) to steal a suitcase full of money from the members of a Chinese numbers racket. Porter and Resnick’s plan works to perfection and they get away clean with $140,000. Porter is expecting a half share totalling $70,000. This is where things go wrong for Porter. Porter’s wife, Lynn (Deborah Kara Unger), who had been driving the getaway car, shoots her husband in the back a few times (talk about a messy divorce!) Porter is left for dead, and Lynn drives of with Resnick who had pre-arranged the whole double cross. It seems Resnick needed all the money to pay off a local crime syndicate.

Six months later, Porter has healed and wants his money back – all $70,000, which he feels he had earned. And Porter is prepared to intimidate, beat or kill anyone to get it. The rest of the film is devoted to Porter’s dogged determination in retrieving his money.

As I mentioned at the top, I haven’t seen the Director’s Cut, but all reports indicate that it is a very different beast to the one we have here. Here we have a quasi film noir revenge movie. The Director’s Cut apparently draws it’s inspiration from the early seventies crime dramas that featured tough anti-heroes. Apparently the decision was made to re-shoot and re-edit the film in 1999, because it was believed that the viewing public weren’t ready to see Mel’s nasty side. I’d love to see it, but so far it hasn’t made it to this part of the world. But until then, I guess this isn’t as bad as I first thought. It’s a serviceable crime thriller, with Mad Mel being a little bit nastier than usual.

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War Songs: What’s A Few Men

What’s A Few Men – Hunters & Collectors

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