Friday 18 October 2013

Final Call for Entries... win a copy of The Art of Movie Storyboards, folks. The competition closes Sunday night, so if you haven't already – and a fair number of you have – you've still got the weekend to get your entry in. Follow this link:

WIN!!! Brand New Illustrated Book The Art of Movie Storyboards!

to find out how. And to further entice you, here's a couple more sumptuous spreads from the book, showing Hein Heckroth and Ivor Beddoes's storyboards from Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes, as well as storyboards for an abandoned film version of William Golding's Lord of the Flies:

You can click on the spreads to see them a bit larger, but to see them full size, I'm afraid you'll have to either enter the competition or go and buy the book.

Thursday 17 October 2013

The Switch by Elmore Leonard: First Hardback Edition (Secker & Warburg, 1979); Book Review; Film Adaptation Life of Crime (2013)

Back in August, when I was nearing the end of my series of posts on the now late lamented Elmore Leonard, I noted in my review of Gold Coast that in the 1970s, Leonard could have been more accurately described as a paperback writer than a hardback author. (You'd be forgiven for wondering why such a distinction should matter to anyone, but it certainly mattered to Leonard, who appreciated the respectability – even if only perceived – that being published in hardback bestowed on his work.) Of the nine novels Leonard published in the '70s, six were issued straight to paperback in the US; but here in the UK, three of those six were published straight to hardback rather than paperback. One of them, Leonard's 1970 western Valdez is Coming, was published in hardback by Robert Hale (actually the year before the US Gold Medal softcover, in 1969); the other two were issued by Secker & Warburg.

In total Secker published four Leonard novels in the 1970s, and all four of their editions have become quite collectable. I've blogged about the two that were published as hardbacks in both the UK and the US – Fifty-Two Pickup (1974) and Unknown Man No. 89 (1977) – previously, but not the two that were only published in hardback in the UK, for the simple reason that I didn't own them. Now, however, I do. I'll be unveiling the scarcest one of all in my next Leonard post, but first, this:

The Switch, published in hardback by Secker & Warburg in 1979, the year after the US Bantam paperback. The dust jacket photography is by Bill Richmond, whose work also graces the jacket of Patricia Highsmith's fourth Tom Ripley novel, The Boy Who Followed Ripley. One book collecting curiosity of The Switch dust jacket is that you'd be hard pressed to find one that isn't price-clipped; there are roughly ten copies of the Secker edition for sale online right now, and every single one has a price-clipped jacket. My guess is that the publisher altered their cover price at the last moment and so clipped the wrappers themselves, although if that is the case, one wonders why they didn't sticker them on the flaps.

Anyway, tonally, The Switch is, I'd venture, the lightest of the novels Elmore Leonard published in the 1970s – if a novel about kidnapping and extortion can be described as "light". Certainly it stands in marked contrast to the somewhat more solemn Fifty-Two Pickup, with which it shares a number of themes, although here we get just the one (well-deserved) death and a climax that's not so much darkly ironic as downright comedic (it brought a smile to my face anyway). One could also make a useful comparison with 1980's Gold Coast, in that one of the chief protagonists is female – except that Leonard never really gets inside the head of Gold Coast's Karen DiCillia, whereas much of The Switch is shaped not only by the actions of Mickey Dawson, the woman who is kidnapped by ex-cons Louis Gara and Ordell Robbie in order to extract a million dollars from her property magnate husband Frank, but by her thoughts.

In fact, what it reminded me of most was the work of Kate Atkinson. I've no idea whether Atkinson has ever read Elmore Leonard, but it's striking how in The Switch Leonard's third person prose is littered with parenthetical asides, approximating Mickey's circuitous thought processes in much the same way as Atkinson would decades hence with Jackson Brodie or Ursula Todd. In that sense, Mickey has more in common with some of Leonard's male leads than his female characters – Jack Ryan from The Big Bounce and Unknown Man No. 89, say, or Calvin Maguire from Gold Coast: men who aren't sure of their place in the world, who are self-aware and prone to bouts of self-doubt or self-questioning, and yet who ultimately, when in a tight spot, can turn a situation to their advantage. As Mickey says, studying herself in a mirror, "Who are you?", answering: "If you don't know, you're gonna find out, aren't you?"

Incidentally, a film adaptation of The Switch, Life of Crime, recently debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. Directed by Daniel Schechter and starring Jennifer Aniston as Mickey, John Hawkes as Louis and Mos Def as Ordell – intriguing casting there – the film received decent notices in The Guardian and Variety but slightly more lukewarm ones in The Hollywood Reporter and on Indiewire, the latter of whom also picked up on the fact that it's a sort-of prequel to Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997) – or rather, The Switch is a sort-of prequel to Rum Punch (1992), in that not only do Louis and Ordell appear in both stories – played, in Jackie Brown, by Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson – but so does Frank Dawson's girlfriend, Melanie, played by Isla Fisher in Life of Crime and Bridget Fonda in Jackie Brown. And for more Elmore Leonard intertexual fun, see my posts on Gold Coast, LaBrava, Stick and Road Dogs and this thread (and its antecedents) on the (sadly locked) Elmore Leonard forum.

According to Jean Henry Mead in her 1989 book Maverick Writers, Leonard had a special fondness for The Switch (alongside 1976's Swag). I, on the other hand, while I did enjoy The Switch, have a special fondness for the next Elmore Leonard novel I'll be looking at – and even more especially in this particular, rarely seen edition.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

From the Lewes Book Fair: Vintage Paperbacks by Michael Dibdin, Isaac Asimov and Patricia Highsmith, Plus Some Children's Books

It's been a while since I've blogged about the Lewes Book Fair and the books I've bought thereat (is "thereat" even a word...?), chiefly because despite attending almost all of the fairs over the past year or so (apart from the one in May, due to little Edie choosing that weekend to make her grand entrance), I didn't buy a single book (this 1958 third impression of the Hart-Davis edition of Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man was, I believe, the last thing I got there). However, that dry spell was broken at Saturday's (12 October) event – the final one of the year (there were, I think, only four this year, as opposed to the usual five) – when I came away with three vintage paperbacks for a pound a pop, plus some kids' books; so before we get to those promised Elmore Leonard posts, I thought we could take a look at wot I got.

A 1980 first Sphere paperback edition of Michael Dibdin's debut novel, The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, originally published in hardback in 1978 by Jonathan Cape. I'm not quite sure why I decided to purchase this, given that my interest in Sherlock Holmes extends to Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss's Sherlock and not much farther, and that I still have umpteen Dibdin first editions – the majority of them Aurelio Zen novels – to read and blog about (the only ones I've covered thus far are the Zen books Ratking and And Then You Die). Maybe it was the Kingsley Amis blurb on the front cover wot did it – that and the fact that the book was only a quid, whereas a first edition would be more like sixty quid (and probably more).

A 1960 first Panther paperback edition of Isaac Asimov's Foundation, originally published in hardback in 1953 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. I have a habit of occasionally picking up cheap paperback editions of science fiction classics with a view to, at some point, in some mythical future era where I miraculously have hours and hours of leisure time at my disposal (not retirement, before you suggest that; I doubt I'll ever be able to afford to retire), finally getting round to reading them (see also Brian W. Aldiss's Non-Stop). Never gonna happen, obviously, but dammit I can dream, can't I? The cover artist, by the way, is unknown (even to the illustrious Steve Holland) – as is the cover artist of the third and final paperback.

A 1968 first Macfadden paperback edition of Patricia Highsmith's Those Who Walk Away, originally published in hardback in the States in 1967 by Doubleday. This is my prize score from this bunch; unlike the other two paperbacks, which were published by British outfits, this one was was published by an American imprint, which, in conjunction with the fact that it's pretty scarce – there are at present just four copies on AbeBooks, all offered by US sellers – makes it quite unusual in the context of it being found at a provincial British book fair. I actually already own the novel in its 1967 UK Heinemann edition – see the recently established Existential Ennui Patricia Highsmith First Edition Book Cover Gallery – but such is my passion for Highsmith I couldn't resist nabbing this too, especially for a pound.

Those, then, were the books I bought for myself at the Lewes Book Fair. But I also bought three books for Edie, who made a special guest appearance at the fair (to the accompaniment of much cooing and the odd comment about starting her reading rather young). In fact Edie did better than I did on the day, because Rachel subsequently picked out a couple more books for her from the Red Cross charity shop (newly reopened as a children's outlet) at the top of Station Street, so that Edie's haul in the end looked like this:

Left to right we have Jemmy Button by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali; Red Ted and the Lost Things by Michael Rosen and Joel Stewart; Marigold Garden by Kate Greenaway; The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base; and Noddy Meets Father Christmas by Enid Blyton. (That last one we're of course keeping in reserve for Christmas.) Phew. As Bruce Forsyth was once wont to say: didn't she do well?