Tagged: sex

Martha Thomases Sees Super Bowl Spots

Thomases Art 130208This is going to be old news by the time you’re reading this, but as a card-carrying DFH I am still obsessing over the gender and racial politics of the Super Bowl. And also the nerd politics.

First, a disclaimer: I’ve never been able to figure out football. Even when my son played it in high school, I couldn’t understand the rules. I know there are two teams fighting over a ball. I know there “downs,” and they matter. I know it isn’t soccer, which I do understand. So I’m only watching for the commercials, and because every other television station has surrendered and is running reruns.

(And even then, I switched to the Law & Order marathon on TNT occasionally, especially during the black-out.)

The commercials were depressing.

And they were depressing for a lot of reasons. For one, they weren’t very good. I get that, for the most part, they aren’t aimed at me, an older woman who isn’t into beer and lives in a city where she doesn’t have to own a car.

(I should say, however, that if anyone could manipulate me into buying a car, it’s Jon Hamm and Willem Dafoe.)

So, yeah, there were commercials that tugged our heartstrings, with tear-jerking odes to soldiers and farmers and horses.

There were celebrities making unexpected appearances, like Oprah and Seth Rogan and Kelly Cuoco and Tracy Morgan and Paul Rudd. And, most surprising, dead Paul Harvey.

There were ads for summer movies, which are fun to see when it’s cold out.

There was the gross Go Daddy ad, which I believe is deliberately bad so we’ll talk about it, and therefore I’m going to stop now.

On average, the ads celebrate bros. The people in the ads are men who drink beer and eat chips and drive around. If there are women, they are either unobtainable sex objects (who are obtainable if you use Axe body spray or drink Budweiser) or affectionate scolds. It is as if to be a woman is to be the responsible adult, and that is to be avoided at all costs. A real man has no impulse control, and if he’s successful, women will take care of him.

If this is what men want, that’s really sad. I would be more inclined to believe that it’s what the advertisers want men to want, and so they try to sell this attitude along with their product. Or maybe the lowest common denominator is lower than I thought.

As a palate cleanser, you might enjoy this. I can’t say the men in the ad are particularly my type (big pecs don’t do it for me), but the ad is funny, to the point, and assumes a certain amount of intelligence in the target audience.

The other thing I learned from the Super Bowl this year is that, even though my initial reaction was that making this movie was a stupid idea, I desperately need to see The Lone Ranger.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman and the Comic Book Industry of the Future!




ALL PULP REVIEWS- by Ron Fortier
By Terrence McCauley
Airship 27 Productions
181 Pages
Guest Reviewer – Derrick Fergusson
I’m going to get to talking about PROHIBITION in a bit, I promise. But first, I gotta relate a little story that will assist me in making my opening point. Okay? Thank you for your patience and sit back. Here it goes:
Couple of weeks ago I’m having a Skype conversation with a gentleman who is incensed that I don’t like “Hobo With A Shotgun.” It’s a perfect modern grindhouse movie he insists. No, I politely disagree. “Planet Terror” is a a perfect modern grindhouse movie. The gentleman spends the next two minutes expressing his opinion that whatever it is I allegedly use for thinking must be composed of excrement and another minute telling me that “Planet Terror” is garbage and why on Earth do I think it’s the better movie.
“Because,” says I, “Robert Rodriguez knows what grindhouse is. The guys who made ‘Hobo With A Shotgun’ just think they know what grindhouse is.”
Which finally brings me to PROHIBITION by Terrence McCauley. We’ve got a lot of New Pulp writers who think they know what a 1930’s gangster story is. But Terrence McCauley knows what a 1930’s gangster story. Man, does he ever.
We’re in New York, 1930. The town is run by Archie Doyle, the city’s most powerful gangster who is more like the monarch of an unruly kingdom. And there’s somebody out there looking to take his crown. Archie’s got an ambitious plan in mind that will give him more power than he’s ever dreamed of before. But he’s got to stay alive long enough to see that plan through. That’s where his chief enforcer Terry Quinn comes in. Terry’s an ex-boxer and the toughest mug on two legs. But finding out who’s trying to start a bloody gang war between Archie Doyle and his main rival, Howard Rothman is going to take more than just being tough. Quinn is going to have to rely on his street smarts and think his way through this. Of course, shooting and slugging his way to the guilty party helps an awful lot, too.
PROHIBITION has a lot going for it, mainly that McCauley isn’t afraid to write characters who aren’t likeable at all. But that’s okay with me. As long as I know why the characters are doing what they’re doing and understand their motivations, I’m cool. McCauley is writing about people who have chosen a dark, dangerous and violent life and he stays true to that. That’s not to say he doesn’t find the humanity in them. He does. It’s just a humanity that manifests itself within the terms and parameters of the concrete jungle his characters have chosen to inhabit for whatever reasons people have to live a life of crime. This wasn’t an easy period in American history to live in and people had to make hard choices. The characters in PROHIBITION have to make the hardest choices of all since the wrong one can get them killed.
A lot of New Pulp writers figure that to write a 1930’s gangster story you just have to have pseudo-tough talking wanna-be’s sounding more like Slip Mahoney than real gangsters run around shooting Tommy guns. McCauley understands that the most successful gangsters of that era ran their organizations like businesses. The business just happens to be crime is all. Violence wasn’t their first resort to solve every problem. It was just as useful and as profitable to know when notto use violence as it was to know when to use it.
I appreciated the smartness of these characters. The way they talk to each other, maneuvering to gain an edge through words makes for some really solid dialog. The relationship between Archie Doyle and Terry Quinn reminds me a lot of the relationship between the Albert Finney/Gabriel Byrne characters from “Miller’s Crossing.” Imagine if Gabriel Byrne’s character was an authentic badass who knew how to fight instead of getting his ass kicked all the time and you’ll get what I mean. Terry Quinn is a guy who knows how to work the angles and his navigation through this gleefully violent story is an enjoyable one to read.
And like any good gangster story, McCauley doesn’t skimp on the sex and violence. If you want cute gangsters who pal around and crack jokes then go watch “Johnny Dangerously” because you’re not going to find that in PROHIBITION. I appreciated the tough, hard story McCauley is telling and the even tougher, harder characters who speak and talk pretty much the way I expect gangsters of that era to behave.
I’m sure that there are some who are going to be uncomfortable or even turned off by the language and that there isn’t really an ‘heroic’ character to root for. Terry Quinn is a killer and extraordinarily violent man who doesn’t make apologies for how he lives his life. Most readers like to have a lead character to root for and while Terry’s misplaced sense of honor and loyalty lifts him a notch above most of the other characters in the book that doesn’t mean he’s anywhere near being on the side of the angels. But it’s precisely because of that misplaced honor and loyalty that makes him such an enjoyable protagonist to read about.
And I can’t wrap up this review without mentioning the wonderful illustrations by Rob Moran which do an excellent job of capturing the mood and feel of the story. I’m willing to bet next month’s rent that Rob Moran has seen a lot of those great classic Warner Brothers black-and-white gangster epics of the 30’s and 40’s as that’s the feeling I got from his illustrations.
So should you read PROHIBITION? Absolutely. It’s not only a terrific way to spend a couple of quality reading hours, it’s also an important book in the evolution of New Pulp. It’s exciting to see books like this that adds another genre to expand what New Pulp is and can be. The bread-and-butter of New Pulp are the masked avengers, the jungle lords and the scientific adventurers, sure. But there’s plenty of room for sports stories, romance, westerns and private eyes. And in the last couple of years we’ve seen those. Hard-boiled crime stories are just as much a Classic Pulp tradition and I’m delighted to see it being continued and represented in New Pulp. Most definitely put PROHIBITION on your Must Read List. 

John Ostrander: Sweet Jesus!

The thing about a great story is that it can be told so many different ways. That includes the Greatest Story Ever Told and, at this festive time of year, my mind turns to the Christmas Story. I recently had a flash of (possibly divine) inspiration: how would it work as a sitcom?

Hear me out.

It would focus on a middle-aged Jewish carpenter named Joseph back in Roman times. I’m thinking Tim Allen for the part. He’s got this hot young fiancée named Mary (Megan Fox?) who is saving herself for marriage but then winds up pregnant – and not by Joseph. Well, Joseph’s all set to break off the wedding when he gets visited by the Angel Gabriel. I’m thinking Morgan Freeman or possibly Chi McBride (who was so good in being the smart butler to a daffy, horny Abraham Lincoln in “The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer” that aired for about three heartbeats back in 1998).

Not only is it God’s will that Joseph take Mary as his wife but, according to the doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, Joseph can never have sex with her. At all. This would be a recurring gag. Joseph gets hot and horny and has to leap into a barrel of cold water to cool down. Maybe steam rises from the barrel. Trust me, this joke will never get old.

So the Romans order a census and Joseph has to go to Bethlehem, the city of David (because he’s descended from David) and get counted. Mary’s “great with child” which means she’s about to give birth at any moment. Maybe they got a late start, maybe Mary can’t move so fast or has to stop often, but by the time they get to Nazareth, everything is booked up. Lots of room for comedy there. One innkeeper (I’m thinking Richard Lewis, although Richard Karn who was in Home Improvement with Tim Allen could do it and audiences might like that) agrees to let them sleep in the barn out back.

Nowhere in any of the gospels or anything else I could find mentions a midwife. You think you would. Mary’s midwife would be a pretty important role. No mention. So – who has to do it? That’s right – Joseph. Tim Allen as Joseph. Can you see it? Alpha male having to deal with childbirth? Tons of humor to be mined there.

So while Mary is screaming and Joseph is ready to faint, Gabriel shows back up. He waves his fingers, Mary’s labor pain goes away (Gabriel claims it’s a divine epidural) and then – lo! – a great light shines ‘round about them coming from Mary’s womb. Enter Jesus.

I’m going to take a little artistic license here and suggest that he’s like the eTrade baby or the babies in the Guess Who’s Talking movies. The adults don’t react but it lets Baby Jesus comment on what’s going on. I always found young Jesus to be a little snarky, what with the “Don’t you know I’m supposed to be about my father’s business?” Jesus can play all sorts of tricks on Joseph, too, like change his wine into water.

In addition to the Innkeeper, there’s all sorts of wacky characters who can be brought in – shepherds wandering the fields at night, three Wise Men bearing gifts (maybe Joseph has to convince them that Jesus is the child they are seeking), and Mary’s Cousin Elizabeth can come for a visit (is it too much to hope for Carol Burnett? And maybe Tim Conway could play Elizabeth’s husband, Zachariah.).

I was contemplating the title. Modern Family is a popular show so I was thinking Ancient Family or Holy Family, but that doesn’t catch the flavor. I think Sweet Jesus! works. It could be pitched to the networks but HBO or Showtime might be looking for an edgy comedy. Or we could get Seth McFarlane interested and take it over to Fox. He’d animate it. Bill O’Reilly could denounce it on his show and when he cuts away for a commercial, there’s an ad for Sweet Jesus! I love it.

So, what do you think, Hollywood? I think we have a winner here. Have your people call my people. Wait. I don’t have people. Maybe Michael Davis could be my people; he’s always putting together deals. Hey, Michael – want to be my people?

And as Tiny Tim was heard to say, “God bless us everyone!”

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


By Max Allan Collins
Illustrations by Terry Beatty
Available 19 Feb. 2013
Hard Case Crime
260 pages
What better book to review following our look at a Modesty Blaise strip collection then one that uses the 1950s anti-comic book witch hunt as its thinly disguised narrative skeleton.  “Seduction of the Innocent,” is the third in a series starring former stripper and newspaper syndicate owner, Maggie Starr and her World War II veteran stepson, Jack Starr.  Both appeared in two earlier comics themed mysteries, “A Killing in Comics,” 2007 and “Strip for Murder,” 2008.  Now Collins wraps up the trilogy with a look at the events that nearly destroyed the American comics industry via the publication of the original, “Seduction of the Innocent,” by Dr. Fredric Wertham.
For the uninitiated, Wertham (March 20,1895 – November 18, 1981) was a German born American psychiatrist who made a name for himself by denouncing comics books as a corrupting influence on the children of that era.  Targeting such publishers as E.C. Comics, he posited the theory that the crime, sex and violence depicted in those comics were the principle cause of delinquency among juvenile boys.  Of course he failed to point out that the titles he singled out were clearly intended for an adult audience though no such labeling existed at the time.  His best known book was “Seduction of the Innocent,” and his criticisms of comic books launched a U.S. Congressional inquiry into the industry and the creation of the Comics Code.
Of course the book is a sham using only the most gruesome examples of graphic art to prove a theory that was never corroborated with traditional scientific sampling.  But the public, already molded by McCarthyism was only too eager to start comic book burning events in their noble defense of America’s naïve youth. 
Author Collins has no difficult task in imagining a scenario in which the hated fictional doctor is murdered and then he lines up a half dozen very plausible suspects, each based loosely on past comic industry personalities from publishers to writers and artists.  And therein lies the fun of this tale for any diehard comic book fan; guessing who it is Collins is rifting off of as Jack Starr investigates.  As ever, Collins plays fair and the clues are laid out within the context of the story for all to see and interpret, mystery fans; the challenge being can we solve it before Jack and Maggie do?
This new “Seduction of the Innocent,” is by far a whole lot more entertaining than its predecessors and has the distinction of being Hard Case Crime’s first ever illustrated novel.  Through out the book there are wonderful spot illustrations provided by the super talented Terry Beatty; all done in the marvelous retro golden age style of art.  They add a really nice visual element to what is already a fun read.  It is hoped that Collins’ legion of fans will demand yet more of these delicious murder mysteries starring Maggie & Jack Starr.  In a literary environment overly saturated with dark, somber and depressing cautionary tales these are truly a breath of fresh air.

Dennis O’Neil: She-Spies

Fictional spies seem to come in two varieties, with numerous subsets: There are the glamorous and super-competent who bop around the globe, always traveling first class, driving lavishly sports cars, staying at palatial hotels, indulging in expensive cuisine and exotic liquor and comely members of the opposite sex and killing bad guys and saving civilization from slightly caricatured nut cases. (Bond – James Bond.)

If you can ignore the authoritarian subtext, mentioned in his space last week, and if you aren’t bothered by the veneration of conspicuous consumption, this almost-fantasy can be excellently entertaining, and often I have been excellently entertained by it.

This kind of secret agent is currently represented on television by Covert Affairs, a show in which the superspy is a woman incarnated by Piper Perabo. Her character isn’t quite as over-the-top as Bond, and thus far her opponents haven’t been any more caricatured than most televised antagonists, but she is one tough jet-setter who doesn’t stay in hostels when abroad and seems to have no qualms about her profession. She is part of a CIA unit that functions as a surrogate family, has a brotherly colleague with whom she has a platonic (so far) relationship, and even a biological sister. Oh, and she’s gorgeous. Did I mention that – the gorgeousness?

The other kind of fictional spy is a lot less fun. You find him/her in print in the novels of John LeCarre and Graham Greene and on the screen in movies made from those novels, and, I guess, some others. On the screen in your living room, this brand of spy is represented by another woman who is a far distance from Ms Perabo’s Annie Walker. Claire Danes’s Carrie Mathison, of Homeland fame, is deeply conflicted and in need of psychiatric help, which she got in the last episode of the previous season in the form of shock therapy. Ouch!

She has a love-hate relationship with her primary antagonist and doesn’t always mesh with her fellow CIAers. She usually looks unhappy and she’s been known to raise her voice. Her world is dark and the mortal climate is ambiguous: watching Homeland this week, I saw a beautifully written and played scene in which Carrie and a terrorist debated the righteousness of their respective causes and neither was in error. Grey is apparently the universe’s hue of choice and Homeland reflects that.

So what kind of spy story is better? Hey, no need for such a comparison. There is absolutely nothing wrong with pure entertainment and I would sashay along Annie Walker’s path any time. But – maybe drama should occasionally try for something more than entertainment. Maybe it should reflect the perplexities of the real world and maybe it should prompt us to question inherited wisdom and assumptions and so, if we were indulging in pointless comparisons (and we’re not! We’re not!) Carrie would be the more valuable she-spy.

But I’d still rather sashay with Annie.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING: The Science of Natural Healing, presented by Dr. Mimi Guarneri and available from The Teaching Company. The information Dr. Guarneri gives us could conceivably save lives. Stuff everyone should know.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases – Where Are The New Nerds?




Linda Pendelton has announced the return of pulp author Don Pendleton‘s science fiction adventures in both paperback and Kindle formats.


Earth is being invaded by treacherous aliens and Terra 10, the earth’s only hope, is in the enemy’s power! Zach Whaleman, the Gunner of Terra 10, was moving fast, out into the darkness. A long-dormant instinct had arisen in response to his urgent need, a very human and entirely “natural” response of a life-mechanism in a survival situation. He had a weapon now! Let them catch him. Let them. He would kill them! He would do everything he had to do to save the super-secrets of Terra 10.

The Guns of Terra 10: A Space Opera originally published in 1970. Now available in paperback and Kindle formats.


The United States government’s executive intelligence gathering agency, the Inter-agency Intelligence Group, has largely supplanted the clumsy machinery of the CIA as a direct tool of the U.S. President. Patrick Honor, a top member of the Intelligence Group, is the one skilled enough to find answers to mysterious events taking place, in which the number 9 has significance. Members of a top secret psychic investigative team, the PPS, Psychic Power Sources, are in harm’s way, as is the President. Patrick Honor believes there is a Rogue God. Is he right? Do the answers to the mystery have anything to do with sex being taboo down through the ages? Who is Octavia? Will answers be found in the symbology of the Nines? Can Patrick Honor insure the safety of the President while unraveling the psychic events, all before it is too late for humanity? Intended for mature readers.

The Godmakers: Fantastic adventure into cosmic consciousness and the unknown….originally published in 1970 under pseudonym Dan Britain, soon after by Don Pendleton. Now available in paperback and Kindle formats.


Political newspaper reporter, Richard Hunter, is questioning the upcoming presidential election and the insufferable Electoral College, wondering if, for all these years, had it been some grand political game? Was billionaire Brian Donaldson buying the votes of the Electoral College? Did he believe himself to be an Olympian and hide away on a mountain top in Wyoming, while manipulating the election for his own gain? Was the United States headed to a coup attempt? Could Richard Hunter stop a coup, or was he ignoring the dangers to the country while enjoying the social and sexual activities of this isolated “Olympian” group. Who would end up in the White House as president of the United States of America, and with the power to change the world—for better—or for worse?

The Olympians: Science fiction alternative history…first published in 1969. Now available in paperback and Kindle formats.

Don Pendleton was creator of the long-running action/adventure series, The Executioner; Joe Copp Private Eye Series; Ashton Ford Psychic Detective Series; and other fiction and nonfiction books. Learn more about Don Pendelton at www.donpendelton.com.


ALL PULP REVIEWS- by Ron Fortier
Deputy Unites States Marshall Bass Reeves
From Slave to Heroic Lawman
By Paul Brady
Milligan Books, Inc.
202 pages
At the age of sixteen years old, runaway slave Bass Reeves left the Texas plantation where he had been raised and fled into the Indian Territories.  There he lived with the Five Civilized Tribes and fought with the Creek and Seminole on the side of the Union in the Civil War.  After that conflict, Reeves married and started a horse ranch.  Shortly thereafter he was recruited by Circuit Court Judge Isaac Parker to become one of the first ever African American Deputy U.S. Marshalls.  In his thirty-two years as a lawman, he achieved one of the most impressive records ever recorded in the annals of west.  He captured well over three thousand felons, was involved with fourteen major gun-battles and was only  wounded once.  An expert marksman with both carbine and pistols, Reeves was also a formidable tracker who knew the frontier lands like the proverbial back of his hands.  
The tragic irony of his life is that as an adult, he served the law believing it would forever change the plight of minority groups for the better.  And it did just that in the Indian Territories where Judge Parker treated all felons to the same justice with no regard to their sex or race.  But when the Federal Government moved in by the late 1890s to accept Oklahoma as a state, it opened the floodgates to allow white settlers to swarm the land like human locust.  Most of them were racist; having no desire to share the bounty of the frontier with either the red or black man.  Caught in the middle, lawman Reeves watched the newly formed state enact equal-but-separate laws that were the legal antithesis of the Emancipation Proclamation and by the time of his passing in 1910 at the age of 72, racism was fully entrenched in Oklahoma.  And with that white supremacist mentality in place, is it any wonder that the remarkable life and career of this man were purposely expunged by white historians chronicling the history of the west?
Thankfully the indomitable spirit of freedom and justice prevailed and by the sixties the Equal Rights Movement swept across the land correcting those injustices once and for all.  With that came two authentic histories of Bass Reeeves.  “The Black Badge,” written by Paul Brady, a respected Federal Administrative Law Judge serving 25 years on the bench and the grand-nephew of Bass Reeves was released in 2005.  It preceded “Black Gun, Silver Star” authored by Prof. Art T. Burton published in 2008.  Both books are excellent and worthy of your attention.  Whereas Burton’s is definitively more complete and scholarly account, Brady’s is wonderfully full of personal anecdotes handed down to him by his elder relatives, many of whom actually knew Bass Reeves personally.  It is interesting to note there are several major discrepancies concerning Reeves younger days in regards to his parentage and name.  None of which is surprising considering the lack of personal records afforded slaves save for very few property accounts found on plantations after the Civil War.
Basss Reeves was the greatest lawman who ever rode the Wild West.  His adventures are legendary and all the more fantastic because they were all true.  If, like this reviewer, you grew up fascinated by the stories of Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickock , Bat Materson and all those others made famous in books and movies, you owe it yourself to pick up this “The Black Badge” and meet the Bass Reeves.  It is an experience that will open your eyes and maybe even your heart.

‘South Park’ Creators Sued Over Lollipop King In ‘Imaginationland’

Imaginationland Episode I

Step 1: Sue Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, for copyright violation.

Step 3: Profit!

Lollipops are meant to remain wholesome. This according to Exavier Wardlaw, creator of the children’s show “The Lollipop Forest,” who slapped Matt Stone and Trey Parker of “South Park” with a lawsuit claiming the show ripped off his lollipop character and defiled it.

TMZ obtained the details of the copyright infringement lawsuit against “South Park” filed by Wardlaw. The lawsuit alleges that the “South Park” character Lollipop King is a hack version of Wardlaw’s “Lollipop Forest” character Big Bad Lollipop. Wardlaw claims that his wholesome show was defiled when his character was exposed to “unwholesome language and sexual innuendo.”

Three episodes of “South Park” from 2007, entitled “Imaginationland,” featured Lollipop King and showed the candy being choked by a Storm Trooper, witnessing a suicide bombing and watching Kyle and Cartman engage in oral sex, TMZ notes. Still, “Imaginationland” scored an Emmy in 2008 for Outstanding Animated Program for a show one hour or more.

Wardlaw was seemingly unimpressed.

via ‘South Park’ Lawsuit: Creators Sued Over Use Of Lollipop King In ‘Imaginationland’.

Boy, this could really suck. Or blow, depending on the type of lollipop.

REVIEW: 30 Beats

The great television series Naked City used to close each episode with the famous tag, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” It’s very compact size and dense population means people are intersecting in new and unusual ways all the time. This has given rise to some wonderful fiction such as Kissing in Manhattan and some less memorable fare such as the recently released film 30 Beats. Using a heat wave as the through-line the heat is also a metaphor for the sexual tension between ten various New Yorkers. Structurally, it owes a great deal to Max Ophuls’s La Ronde but never comes close to its brilliance.

The cast is headed by sexy Paz de la Huerta (Boardwalk Empire) and Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies), and the film was written and directed by Alexis Lloyd. The cast also includes Condola Rashad, Justin Kirk, Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom), and Jennifer Tilly. Its tag line, “New York City, in the heart of summer: a heat wave transforms the city into a tropical zone. Ten characters are drawn, one after the other, into a ring of love and desire, each one caught beyond his or her control in a chain reaction of seduction, impulses and self-discovery” is certainly catchy but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Given the rich possibilities, it’s a shame the film runs a lightweight 88 minutes and doesn’t really bring any of the characters to real light or allow them any depth. As a result, there’s a lot of sweat and plenty of exposed skin, but you’ve seen better on any late night Cinemax production.

Out today from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, it’s billed a comedic romance but the comedy is fairly tame and the romance is of the heaving bosom variety. There’s the older woman (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) seducing the virgin (Ben Levin) at a spa only to learn she was hired by dad to be his first sexual experience. While a cliché situation, Lloyd allows their inner thoughts to come through, making this awkwardness somewhat sweet. It also promises this could be a good little film, but then we’re shown she was only inspired this one time. The rest is a series of clichés without redemption as character A meets up with character B and after sex, character B hooks up with character C and frankly, the characterizations are as flat as this description. That the core cast is between 25-35 also steals chances for some interesting comparisons among the generations.

There’s the tarot reader helping the young man overcome erectile dysfunction with the aid of some crystals and the chiropractor who gets it on with one of his patients. Every encounter between characters culminates in sex, without fail, and each exchange robs the actors of a chance to actually invest any emotion and feeling into their characters. There’s far too much sex (believe it or not) and nowhere near enough depth.

It’s always a shame when a film about sex is just the sex and nothing about those who commit the act. A more adult approach would have taken this concept, heat wave and all, and really made the audience melt.


(CNN) — Would you recognize a roscoe if you see one? Ever run into a gumshoe? Do you take your heroes hard-boiled and your dames dangerous?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then dear reader, you will welcome the arrival of a lost novel from a prince of pulp fiction. The book is “The Cocktail Waitress.”
The author is James M. Cain, best known for two noir masterpieces, “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Double Indemnity.” Both books sold millions of copies and inspired classic movies. When Cain died in 1977, his fans thought it was the end of the story.
Now, 35 years later, Cain’s last novel is finally reaching readers. So how did this book go from buried treasure to publication?
Credit crime fiction connoisseur Charles Ardai with discovering “The Cocktail Waitress.” Ardai is a longtime Cain fan, an author, editor and the publisher behind the Hard Case Crime series. Ardai helped revive the pulp fiction genre in recent years with a series of popular paperbacks packed with sex, sin and recognized for their tawdry covers.
Years ago, Ardai heard rumors of a lost Cain novel, written at the end of his life but never published. With nearly a decade of detective work, Ardai uncovered “The Cocktail Waitress,” polished the manuscript and this week brings it to bookstores. To fans of old school crime fiction, this book is akin to finding an unheard symphony or a missing oil masterpiece. It has all the hallmarks of classic Cain: lust, greed, betrayal and deception.
It’s the story of beautiful young widow, Joan Medford. After her husband dies under suspicious circumstances, she’s forced to work as a waitress in a cocktail lounge where she meets a handsome young hustler and an aging millionaire. To reveal more would spoil the fun for readers, but suffice to say Joan is not your typical femme fatale. CNN recently spoke to Ardai about the hunt for Cain’s long-lost novel.
The following transcript has been edited for style and brevity:
CNN: Tell me about the hunt for “The Cocktail Waitress.” How did you discover the book?
Ardai: A decade ago, before we ever put out our first book, I was talking with “Road to Perdition” author Max Allan Collins about what sorts of books we might want Hard Case Crime to publish, and he mentioned that he’d heard that there was a last unpublished James M. Cain novel called “The Cocktail Waitress,” written at the very end of Cain’s life, but Max had never seen the book and no one he knew had. Maybe I could find it?
Well, I’d been a huge Cain fan since my freshman year in college, when I’d found a battered copy of “Double Indemnity” on a used book table, and I couldn’t resist this challenge. So I began searching.
The search took nine years. No one I asked seemed to have seen a copy of the manuscript. The Cain estate didn’t have one. None of the collectors or historians I reached out to did. For a while, the more inquiries I put out the less progress I seemed to be making. But I finally thought to ask Joel Gotler, the Hollywood agent who’d inherited the files of H. N. Swanson, Cain’s agent back in the day, and sure enough, there was a copy of the manuscript lurking in Swanson’s files.
But even that wasn’t the end of the search, since it turned out there were several incomplete drafts hiding in the rare manuscript collection of the Library of Congress. …
CNN: This sounds like quite a literary find?
Ardai: Very much so. Cain is considered one of the “big three” in hard-boiled crime fiction, the other two being Dashiell Hammett (“The Maltese Falcon”) and Raymond Chandler (“The Big Sleep”). Chandler and Hammett defined the hard-boiled detective story, but when you take the detective away and just focus on the criminals — the story of a femme fatale out to kill her husband for the insurance money and the lust-blinded sap she seduces into doing the deed — then you’re on Cain’s turf.
He completely owned that type of sordid, desperate crime story. And finding an unpublished manuscript by Cain — it’s like finding a lost Steinbeck novel, or a lost Hemingway, or if you’re a music lover a lost score by George Gershwin. A last chance to hear a great voice from the past, taking you on one last wild ride.
CNN: Once you found the novel, your work was not over. There was quite a bit of revision and editing before the novel’s release.
Ardai: Cain worked and reworked this novel several times at the end of his life, which was presumably why it never got published — he was still working on it when he died. But just to be clear, this doesn’t mean the book was incomplete; on the contrary, he completed at least two full drafts, and then also had various partial drafts that petered out after anywhere from 1 to 100 pages. Which left me with an editing challenge: How to put together a single, complete final draft out of all the material Cain left behind?
In some cases, it was clear that Cain had made a choice he wanted to stick with — for instance, after writing his first draft in the third person, all subsequent drafts were penned in the first person. So first person clearly was his preference.
But in other places, it was less clear what he’d have preferred, so we had to just go with the version we felt was stronger. But in the end, this is what an editor always does — work with an author’s draft to make it the strongest book you possibly can.
It’s easier when the author is alive and can answer questions, but this is hardly the first posthumous book we’ve published. We’ve had similar situations with Donald E. Westlake and Roger Zelazny and David Dodge, among others. So I could draw on that experience when working on this book.
CNN: How does the novel hold up for today’s audience?
Ardai: Oh, it’s great. Part of the reason is that it’s set smack in the heart of the “Mad Men” era, which is certainly not a turnoff for today’s audience. But a bigger reason is that Cain’s themes are timeless.
The dialogue and clothing and hairstyles might remind you you’re reading about the past, but men still kill each other over the love of a beautiful woman today; women still hunger for men who aren’t their husbands; people still find themselves in dire situations, desperate for money and forced to take a degrading job to provide for their children.
The danger in the book, the threats, the pain, the horror of losing a loved one — these are things that never go away.
CNN: “The Cocktail Waitress” is written from the point of view of Joan Medford. How would you describe her?
Ardai: The thing that makes Joan unusual is that she’s the narrator of the book. Usually in Cain’s novels, it’s a man who’s narrating and you see the femme fatale through his eyes — beautiful, sultry, ice cold one minute and burning hot the next, more than a little mysterious. But here Cain makes the brave choice to put us inside the head of the femme fatale herself, which makes her a much richer and more complex character.
No femme fatale thinks she is one or will admit it if she does. From her point of view, she’s just a woman who’s acting reasonably while the world goes mad around her. Do the men in her life drop like flies? Perhaps — but it’s not her fault! This chance to see a classic femme fatale from the inside out is part of what makes “The Cocktail Waitress” so fascinating, and so daring.
CNN: As an award-winning writer, editor and publisher of crime fiction, Cain must have had a great influence on you.
Ardai: No question. The pair of novels I wrote as Richard Aleas — “Little Girl Lost” and “Songs of Innocence” — were directly inspired by Cain. They’re the story of a young man blinded by his love for two beautiful women, who finds himself doing terrible things as a result.
Before I wrote them, I read every book Cain had ever published. He was my muse. As you can imagine, it was an honor and a privilege to get to work on Cain’s final novel, to have a hand in bringing this last lost dollop of darkness to light.