Sunday, January 29, 2006

Me Am Interviewed

Sometimes it is strange living the life of Bizarro John Dalton. Longtime readers may remember my discussion of the real John Dalton, who studied at the prestigious University of Iowa, has an acclaimed novel and lives the artistic life in North Carolina, while I toil over Bigfoot scripts and live in several square miles of rustic cornfield in Indiana. Recently I came across an interview of the real John Dalton, and liked the questions. So now I am going to answer them for myself.

What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
Probably Catch-22, which I read and re-read as a teen and young adult; the dark comedy, the philosophical elements, the bursts of senseless violence, the absurdity of it all, has stuck with me and sent me back to it from time to time even as an adult.

What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, 'nuff said.

2. Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, represented a time in my life like it does for most people.

3. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo helped point me politically.

4. A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul is simply haunting, probably my favorite book I've read as an adult.

5. Vengeance is Mine by Mickey Spillane opened my eyes to the pulp world that I still love today.

6. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer is one I thought a lot about at the time.

7. Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut, 'nuff said.

8. The Haj by Leon Uris because it's the first book my wife gave me to read when we were dating.

9. Cotton Comes to Harlem by Chester B. Himes, showed me how to blend philosophy and genre works.

10. When the Waker Sleeps by Robert Sheckley, still my favorite sci-fi book, and drove my childhood, along with Heinlein's Have Spacesuit Will Travel, which is cheating and making this go up to eleven.

What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
I like a little of everything from blues to bluegrass to classic country and classic rock, as well as 70s Soul; my two favorite albums to listen to for inspiration are Out of the Blue by Electric Light Orchestra and The Fifth Dimension's Greatest Hits on Earth. My all-time favorite album is Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan though sometimes it hurts my heart to hear it.

If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
I have been recommending The Kite Runner to everybody lately.

What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I love getting comic book TPBs. I love giving nice thick anthologies.

Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
I prefer sitting at a desk rather than with a laptop, and let my wife use the laptop. Depending on the season, I like the murmur of baseball in the background. A good Vanilla Pepsi close at hand is welcome.

What are you working on now?
Polishing up some older work and getting ready to gird my loins for the research on a new project.

Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
I always say I had a long layoff between paydays, getting paid for a script I wrote for the David Letterman Scholarship in 1987 and getting paid for my next script in 2000 (though I did a lot of tech writing in between that). I have worked on about a dozen projects since then, with about half seeing fruition. I guess the horror story there is that 50 percent is a pretty good record for most scriptwriters.

If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be?
My wife. She is better than I am and it's a shame I've made more money writing piranha and bigfoot and frankenstein movies than she has writing actual significant literature.

What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Work on craft, and don't wait for the muse to come and visit you while you are meditating under a tree in the woods in your underwear--you have to keep your seat in the chair and keep working. Always be proud of what leaves your keyboard.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


One of my favorite directors, Steven Soderbergh, is releasing his next movie Bubble at roughly the same time at the movies, on HDTV, and on DVD. How awesome is that? I'm curious to see what happens.

I recently sat down and watched The Graduate with my daughter and saw it through new eyes. Long takes, challenging ideas, great use of depth of field and offbeat camera angles. Where have movies like this gone?

But then I felt better the next day because I saw Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers. Always liked Jarmusch. I think Jarmusch's 1984 film Stranger Than Paradise is the movie where I jumped from Japanese rubber monsters and Italian sandal epics into my adult phase, which pretty much lasted until I started writing b-movies in 2000. Now I have a foot in both worlds, I'd like to think.

Most all of my favorite TV shows have jumped the shark. But I've read a couple of good books lately.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Alias The Weiner

"Screenwriter John Oak Dalton wanted to be in Hollywood. Instead, he's in the rustic kitchen above the Germania General Store, stirring a pot of boiling hot dogs."

You can read the rest of Jim Lewis' interesting account of the Harrisburg Patriot-News visit to the set of BLACK MASS right here.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sex Machine Running

Some info on my pal Christopher Sharpe's long-awaited site launch for "Sex Machine" via this info I got from him today:

A visual marvel ... a shot of B-movie adrenaline." --Hitch Magazine is now on-line. This is the official website for the independent feature film. We have tried to cram it full of content, including...
• Behind the Scenes photos
• Screenshots
• Making Sex Machine - article & production journal
• Desktop wallpapers
• Teaser trailer & miniclip
Sex Machine Official Site
After a cruel experiment leaves him with body parts not all his own, an amnesiac seeks revenge on those responsible, while attempting to prevent his girlfriend from suffering the same fate.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Have Gun, Will Travel

Leather Girl kicks whatever ass might be left lying around in this screen capture from Christopher Sharpe's "Sex Machine." The new site is supposed to go live next week. Posted by Picasa

Are You Talkin' To Me?

Frank, our tarnished angel walking the mean streets of Christopher Sharpe's "Sex Machine," cops an attitude here in this noirish screen capture. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 12, 2006

DVD News

I heard that my bigfoot opus "Among Us" might get a DVD re-release, which hopefully will give it another shot at becoming a cult classic.

In more current news, I got some updates on Christopher Sharpe's "Sex Machine," including a peep at my own name in the credits. Any movie that includes not one, not two, but three actresses listed under "Re-animated Stripper" has to have something going for it.

No, one is not me. That would be "Re-animated Chippendale."

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hoosier Hysteria

My daughter was starting forward for the hometown Bears in the opening round of the county basketball tourney. They were down three with twenty seconds to go against a fierce rival with a potential All-Star on the roster. The center pulls up for a three that rims out, but my daughter grabs the rebound and banks it in--and gets fouled. She goes to the line and sinks the extra point, and it's all tied up. Their foes bring it down the court, but the ball slips away and the Bears fall on it. In the process my daughter is fouled. Back she goes to the line with 1.3 seconds on the clock and sinks two sweet ones. Five points in twenty seconds and it's over.

The crowd noise is deafening. My hand is shaking so badly I can hardly record the points in the official book. My mother-in-law is jumping up and down and pulling my wife's arm out of its socket. A stranger has my father-in-law by the shoulders and is bellowing.

Later I found out that my ice-cool daughter thought there was one minute left, not one second, when she first looked at the clock and swished two through.

I woke up at 2:30 this morning with my heart pounding, reliving the last few seconds of the game. It's true: there is nothing greater than high school basketball on this green happy earth.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Book Beat

Longtime readers know that I write a book review column for Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence, the quarterly magazine of the Magna Cum Murder Mystery Conference in Muncie, Indiana. For those who do not receive this august periodical, here is this issue's latest reviews:

McCarthy is probably best known for ALL THE PRETTY HORSES and the two Western-tinged novels that follow, but this hard-bitten, clear-eyed look at the modern border war being fought over drugs in Texas and Mexico is a worthy successor. Here we find a world-weary sheriff, close to retirement, who doesn’t understand the brutality of the drug wars but is determined to solve the mystery of a shootout in the middle of nowhere. McCarthy’s prose style, written in an oral history fashion, takes a bit of getting used to if you haven’t read one of his novels, but soon the riveting story will sweep you along.

THE HOT KID by Elmore Leonard
I am a longtime fan of Elmore Leonard’s crime novels but have found his last few leaning more towards a comedic side, BE COOL and TISHOMINGO BLUES among them. Although enjoyable, I have always liked Leonard’s chrome-hearted Detroit novels the best. Thus was I pleasantly surprised to read THE HOT KID, and find Leonard baring his teeth once again in this Prohibition-era crime story filled with gangsters, gun molls, and true-blue G-Men dedicated to bringing them down. Peppered with wry humor, but with a tommy gun backbeat, THE HOT KID shows Leonard back in fighting form.

JAR CITY by Arnaldur Indridason
A cop with a handful of personal problems finds solace in solving a string of unsolved deaths leading back to a young girl’s gravesite, a photo of which is a cryptic clue at the site of a suspected rapist’s murder. This first novel from Icelandic crime novelist Arnaldur Indridason features a trio of sardonic and weathered cops who could be dropped into any police procedural from Ed McBain to Joseph Wambaugh, but with plenty of local color to make it a worthwhile read. The culture and politics of Reykjavik, and Iceland as well, become a character in itself for the uninitiated.

THE ROGUE’S GAME by Milton T. Burton
Old-fashioned noir potboiler showcases a gambler with a troubled dame on his arm who blows into a secretive, high-stakes poker game in a small town with revenge on his mind. How our mysterious protagonist’s intricate plot unfolds is admirable right up to a surprisingly saber-rattling denouement. Burton has the right feel for the dime novels of old but adds some contemporary flavor that makes this one go down in a satisfying way.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006


I'm glad to put 2005 in the dustbin of history. I had a lot of personal and professional setbacks and a lot of chaos, some good and some bad. We started this year with a massive ice storm that knocked out the power for days and ended with my wife and I both changing jobs. There are a few car wrecks scattered in there, some health problems, lots of other things. Just as well to shut the file.

Some of the good things that happened were that I got to go to the set of Black Mass in the spring and hang out with some of my Polonia Brothers Entertainment pals, then got to see the movie come to fruition this winter. Sex Machine is also finally screening after a long anticipatory wait. Microcinema Fest was a big success in Chicago this year and I was proud of my small contributions to that. I did polishes on a couple of projects that might finally get before the lens in 06. I have had some feelers out on some other projects that got tabled more from problems on my side than on the other, for a change, that I hope to pick back up again in 2006.

My resolutions have been the same for about three years running: write more, draw more, lose 20 pounds, and see my children safely through the year. And maybe turn my thoughts to lensing my own project again.

I hope all of my loyal readers have a prosperous--and productive--2006.

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