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Found 7 results

  1. 'Chiseltown' is completed. It is an intensely personal story, although it has nothing to do with me personally, as odd as that may sound. It's about a fictional filmmaker and a movie, from the first phone call to the last. That's how movies are made. I suppose it's not so different in other walks of life. Somebody calls, you do something, there's another phone call to find out if they liked whatever it was that you did. A producer calls, a movie is made, and then there's another phone call from a preview screening to report average Jane and John Doe audience response, in Fresno traditionally. Audience cards don't matter. What matters is whether the movie made them laugh and gasp and cry real tears, because movies should do that. Along the way, 'Chiseltown' presents a detailed, accessible education in filmmaking, how a script is written and funded and translated into actors and location shoots and sound stages with forced perspective to create a convincing night exterior scene, or an apartment, or a repair shop. Bruno Heckmeier is making a low-budget movie. There are severe obstacles to overcome. He has an unusual home life. There's an enormous amount of comedy for light entertainment purposes. Some of the story is serious literature. Some is slightly adult. I found that I cared very deeply about the 7 or 8 principal players in this story. There are many more bit players, and if it seems unusual to have so many characters, please consider that the movie Bruno makes involves a production company of fifty skilled professionals, stunt men, two very capable stars, and an unusual supporting cast. It's a very short schedule, six weeks to organize it, six weeks to shoot everything, and six weeks of post production. Trust me, that's working at lightning speed. It's a personal story in two respects. I had to write the movie for Bruno to make. And I had to live in Bruno's shoes (and those of all the other characters) with honesty, humor, drama, and a deep understanding of the men and women who call themselves "show people," no matter what their specialty or contribution to a motion picture is. Camera grip, driver, bookkeeper, electrician, set decorator, or seamstress -- they are people who sacrifice much to work a few weeks on a movie, a collaborative art that cannot be created without them. I've done many "below the line" production jobs for an hourly wage, in addition to "above the line" writing, producing, and directing. You have to take my word for it. Directing is a high privilege. It's done by lots of different men and women. 'Chiseltown' is directed by a talented, goofy, warmhearted, intelligent middle aged guy who got stuck on Poverty Row doing low-budget movies, while others did studio pictures with an average budget of $75 million. Bruno has to conceive and execute a feature film on 1/5 as much money, and he wants it to succeed, not only at the box office, but critically as well. Being an "indie" confers a great deal of freedom. No studio moguls, Teamsters, or IATSE work rules. The whole of Los Angeles as a locale, in a "period" setting that's fun to shoot. I always experience emotional awe when I've finished a story. 'Chiseltown' is in a class of its own, among all the stories I've written, among all the fictional characters that I loved and still love, of course. The story of making a movie is a personal confession of my lifelong passion. 'Chiseltown' is a movie I didn't get to make, and it's deeply gratifying to have directed its fictional creation. Many of the characters are based on people who I knew and worked with and loved and respected. Please buy a copy ($5 at and review it. Thanks.
  2. I finally cracked last night. Tears filled my eyes and blurred my vision of the laptop. I gambled everything and lost my wife, bank accounts, credit cards, health, dignity, friends, reputation. I wrote material that no one likes, no one buys. My inbox is empty. The phone never rings. There's no undoing it. I self-published because I couldn't depend on anyone to preserve my work, can't rely on an old laptop that has screen cancer and a weak battery, don't trust heirs to perceive any value in my legacy. So, the work was uploaded to POD. My books are overpriced by a wide margin. Nothing to be done about that. Net royalty from selling a book is a few cents. If someone decides to buy a copy, those pennies would flow to a bank account that was closed, overdrawn. Fair's fair. Chase Bank owns whatever pittance my books might earn. I have a dozen titles in print, an honorable term used loosely, because nothing exists except digital text files and crappy cover art. I don't mind being hated. I don't mind being old and poor. Eventually, I will find a minimum wage job, so I can eat, buy gasoline, pay insurance. It would be better to sell the car. I don't entirely trust myself to drive at highway speed, although I need to drive an hour to get the dog shaved for the summer, so he doesn't suffer. All winter I trimmed his silky hair with a scissors that became too dull to cut effectively. I need new scissors. Absolutely do not trust myself with a gun. Hemingway ended his life that way. Fitzgerald and O. Henry were destroyed by alcohol. I'd rather not amplify further punishment for the crime of writing. Poverty is plenty of torture, thanks. I can't afford to buy alcohol or drugs. It's been years since I bought a dead man's shirts and shoes at a resale shop in Houston. I regret being ugly and disfigured. I used to be handsome, charismatic. I don't regret my characters, Chris and Peachy (The Case Files of Cable & Blount), Janet and Archie (The Good Walk Alone), or Harry and Laura (Mars Shall Thunder). I don't regret being a dinosaur who sees the world as the dominion of heterosexual men and women who discover romantic love and earn it with passion and courage. I don't regret their patriotism and valor, putting their lives on the line for justice. All of my nonfiction stuff addresses the notion of justice, also, but justice is unsaleable and unwanted in the modern world. That's why I broke down and wept last night, the first time it came home to me, that my work is unwanted. If it were a matter of incompetence -- awful, klutzy writing that fails to clear the lowest possible literary hurdle -- it wouldn't hurt so deeply. What hurts is being punished for the good, the real and true, the beautiful and thrilling. The Tar Pit puts the issue as clearly as anyone could, that official police and governments of every description are incapable of doing justice. They always try, always fail. What matters is private actors, private action, private desire and daring and danger and determination. Not a Politically Correct mechanized mob with guaranteed pensions. No matter what happens, Chris and Peachy were worth it. They love each other.
  3. Self-explanatory in this video. I decided to write a speech, on the off chance of being invited to speak somewhere, someday. full text of The Speech at my blog
  5. Hi, A few words about my latest, the second in my series with Chris and Peachy, a modern Nick and Nora Charles. Sometimes authors use images to help them see the characters, or waste time while facing another blank page. 200 blank pages is sort of a big deal, though not as big a deal as The Fountainhead, right? The mind boggles what Rand might have looked at. The Tar Pit is 80% less sex and 100% more crime mystery by popular demand. Anyway, meet Chris Cable It would be swell to have a review on Lulu or Amazon. The cheapest is Lulu, if you'd like to buy a paperback.
  6. It bothers me, and it undoubtedly annoys readers, that my published work past and present is full of cursing, especially the F word. My latest novel has 44 F bombs, which is quite a lot, almost all of them spoken by honorable men and women. Why on earth? I rarely use the F word in conversation nowadays, although I admit having said it frequently as a young man at war with the world. Later in life I kept company with a Russian who used it in every sentence, as bizarre as that may seem. Orlin Grabbe once chastised me for overuse of the F word and suggested that I "use another adjective, please." I retaliated by putting his words into a character's mouth, mocking him, and he probably cursed me when that chapter of The Good Walk Alone went to press. I had 40,000 readers following a weekly serial loaded with bad language and outrageously graphic sex scenes, another signature foible. What the fuck is up with me as an author? (so to speak) I fear there is more wrong than overuse of bad language. My people carry weapons and kill. They recognize no power greater than individual judgment and autonomous action, entirely divorced from legal process and lawful authority. This is the reality of warfare. Warriors are hardened and truculent. Confronted by an unexpected obstacle, a fierce enemy or sudden surprise by politicians, they are apt to curse. "You can stuff that fucking Leavenworth snake back in your pocket," Chris says to his father in A Portrait of Valor, and he means it. How else should one express contempt for that kind of threat, to be imprisoned if he refuses a deadly and unwanted assignment? Suppose it was said more politely. What sort of hero says: "Oh, father, I don't wish to do that, please don't threaten me with prison, I dislike it." In The Tar Pit, my latest, African American detective Ellie Vereen uses the F word constantly, almost every sentence of her dialogue. "Fuck no," she grouches when Chris suggests another black p.i. could back her up on a dangerous assignment. Ellie would be an entirely false and ridiculous character, if she replied: "No, thank you, Chris, I prefer to handle this individually, rather than worry about Mr. Little's propensity to screw things up and blow my cover." Book editors complain about more serious literary problems, concerning multiple points of view and sudden lapses of mood. Written largely in first person past tense, I indulge textual liberties: Ow. (an existential reaction) Shut up, Cable, and go eat a hamburger. (self-talk) That's why I'm stuck with the ignominy of being self-published. Bad languge and bad grammar go hand in hand, a freedom of expression that enlivens story, gives it verisimilitude and authenticity. What I write is largely preposterous. There are very few autonomous heroes. My chief concern is believability. I have little to offer except the hard business of courage under fire. My people are not geniuses or "cosy" elderly women suggesting with a wink that the butler may have tinkered with the grandfather clock and threw a candlestick in the duck pond. It is an unhappy truth of life that people in Hollywood curse, especially private eyes and LAPD homicide detectives. In comradeship and frustration, at the scene of a grisly murder, a cop is likely to say: "Aw, fuck you. You know what I mean." This is how men speak to one another. So -- here we jolly well are -- unable to fix anything without diluting its truth. I apologize for terrible coarseness. My F bombs annoy and interrupt the flow, unless you too know about death and danger, ill-equipped to stop the horror of a serial killer who leaves no evidence of his identity at crime scenes. The police are baffled. The FBI are baffled. Tempers flare. Better to read another author, I guess.
  7. A letter from Wolf DeVoon to a friend I've been active here for some years. It's one of the few places I enjoy, although I've had to take time away for reasons that I've forgotten. Recent discussions prompted me to write an essay for Brant Gaede. He's been exceedingly kind to me in book reviews, uniquely so. But there's some space between us on questions of the first order. Perhaps I've failed in the past 500,000+ words to express what I think of Rand's legacy. I'll try again. I have nothing to say about Ayn Rand as a student in Russia, or her experience in America. It was contemptible that her private life in New York was exposed; worse that Peikoff became an "intellectual heir." Rand was a novelist. To the best of my knowledge, no one else alive today could be compared with her as a storyteller. I'm aware that Miss Rand wrote a great deal of nonfiction. I read most of it long ago. Very nice, especially The Ayn Rand Letter and her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Tremendous personal achievements. But it remains that Ayn Rand was a novelist. Consider We The Living. Leo becomes a wastrel, a cynical playboy, playing a dangerous game for the hell of it, because nothing matters to him any longer, not even Kira. An honorable and powerful man, Comrade Taganov, is destroyed by love. Comrade Sonia and her ilk win. At the time We The Living appeared, it was seen as anguished criticism of Soviet communism, with little comment on the soap opera story she told about a love triangle, a woman who sold her body to save a man she loved. Please note that Kira, Leo, and Andrei were actuated by private passions, acted outside the agreed rules of morality, political advantage, and government. The narrative achievement of The Fountainhead lay in honoring a man who wished to build something beautiful and original and paid a heavy price for it. Three men helped him: Heller, Enright and Lansing. Only one woman loved him. She couldn't bear the struggle he faced as a great man shunned by the world in which they lived, threw herself away, sold herself to the lowest bidder. She did not expect Gail Wynand to fall in love, hard. The novel is littered with private actors who twist levers of power, casually manipulating government officials. Roark's trial is totally unreal, acquitted 12-0, excused from bombing a big public housing project by jury nullification. If I wrote such fantastic hooey, I'd be too embarrassed to publish it. Yet the story of The Fountainhead became intensely important to me as a young filmmaker, offered a moral justification for intransigent devotion, an inspiration that sustained me for decades as a pioneer, price no object. Please note that The Fountainhead is a story of private action, little or nothing to do with government or lawful behavior. Rand didn't care. Her talent as a storyteller consisted of showing us private life. In the same period, she wrote a play that had two endings, and she didn't care whether Karen was convicted of murder or acquitted. It did not matter what the law said or what a jury decided. Karen loved Bjorn, period. "The Strike" (Atlas Shrugged) began as a simple idea, that the world is moved by private men and women, a few who create something new and are beset with opposition, exclusively by government officials and the masses who grant them arbitrary power. Ayn Rand was devoted to the proposition that private life matters, government does not. I acknowledge that Atlas Shrugged also contains a theory of metaphysics, clear-eyed defense of reason and science, firm rejection of "social justice" and politics. It is important to see that all of it failed to make the slightest dent in American political history, and I regard all of her subsequent efforts to elaborate a cogent theory of government as a product of seduction by Branden and other acolytes who were enamored of The Fountainhead and something else, far less respectable. The novelist quit writing fiction, became a guru of ethics and political theory, hoping to attract academic interest in right and wrong, a project that failed to achieve anything except a fussy battle with Rothbard and tenured pranksters like Block and Hoppe. Rand's intellectual legacy doesn't bother me. A is A, agreed. Evil requires the sanction of the victim, agreed. I lived in Galt's Gulch for 7 years, entirely free of government control. I am entitled to say with conviction that man has a fundamental right to liberty. I will not repeat myself concerning the rule of law, except to say again that Ayn Rand did not consider it. She saw the world as an ethical landscape apart from technicalities of due process or common law, although she might have agreed with an ancient common law decision that held "A dead thing can do no felony" (knives and swords cannot be blamed for killing), an English precedent that took hundreds of years to seep into American jurisprudence. In the Massachuetts Bay Colony, a canoe was blamed for murder, deemed an instrument of Satan. So. We have a slightly different view of Ayn Rand. She told stories about passion and genius and romance threatened by vicious fags (ahem, lifelong bachelors) like Ellsworth Tooey and Wesley Mouch, who wanted nothing for themselves as individuals, the root of all evil. They craved government of others, slave masters detached from responsibility, totally unearned, which gays and their welfare state allies achieved in California and New York and Supreme Court decisions that will never be revisited. Government rules with an iron fist, has title to your property and happiness for the satisfaction of looters, civil servants, and queer folk. I sketched a method of providing for national defense by a publicly-traded corporation and a constitution that guaranteed an enduring right to be heard, to sue or be sued, to complain of rights violation, etc -- an organizing principle for the private practice of law and the lawyers chosen to quit private practice and sit as impartial judges to uphold fundamental fairness. It doesn't matter whether you or anyone else see merit in those ideas. Likewise, it doesn't matter a hoot what any of us think about Rand's proposals for government, or her assertions of legal right and wrong. My constitutional law professor in Madison was fond of repeating that an assertion is not an argument, said it in class almost daily. Rand was ignored by the American electorate, smeared by gays like Gore Vidal and Chris Sciabarra, and pilloried by John Aglialoro's wretched movies. Paul Ryan had to disavow her influence. Game over, as they say in queer dominated Silicon Valley. What Rand achieved was superb portraits of private valor and sorrow and romance. Her ideas about government were incoherent assertions, belied by Roark and Ragnar and Francisco, men who went to war as lawless pirates, fighting armies of innocent bystanders. Galt starved millions to death, destroyed a nation. It paled in significance to his love affair with Dagny. How quaint, a heterosexual love story. Boy meets girl. - Wolf DeVoon Gore Vidal (Esquire, 1961) Sciabarra on Ayn Rand