Mystery Scene, Spring 2019
The opening music is lush but ominous. As the movie credits roll, strains of carnival music break through, accompanying the camera as it moves in on a barker, doing his best to entice crowds outside a tent with a sign that reads GEEK. GEEK? To modern audiences, a geek is someone with minor social skills – possibly combined with extra-ordinary intelligence. An eccentric. An oddball. A dweeb. Back in the 1940s the term implied something else – something dark. And tragic. Something within this movie tent, where a striking looking man, wearing a white T-shirt and great physique, watches and waits. “This exhibit is being presented solely in the interest of education and science!” claims a handler, who points to an unseen figure below. “Is he the missing link? Is he man or beast?” The man in the T-shirt – his name is Stanton Carlisle, and he’s a newcomer to the carnival biz – stands, appalled, among the gaping onlookers. When the (unseen) geek is tossed live chickens to eat, Carlisle walks away from the squawks of brutalized poultry, and the resulting gasps from the crowd. He goes on to say, incredulously, “I can’t understand how anybody could get so low.” It’s a prophetic line that serves as a dirty welcome mat to “Nightmare Alley,” a weird, unsettling 1947 movie about an enigmatic grifter who uses the women he meets to con his way to the top.
Mystery Scene, Spring 2019
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, June 28, 2017
For fictional sleuths, location can be as revealing as crime solving techniques … Rich in geographic diversity, So Cal also affords plenty of … characters. Hollywood helps, in that regard. But don’t think of all our residents as just another pretty face, and cosmetically-enhanced bod. The (many) crime novel protagonists who live and work in So Cal must deal with folks given to despair and heartbreak and dark doings–along with the usual Seismic activity– beneath the seemingly perfect surface.
Orange Coast, November 2016
As a child, Julie M. Rivett knew that her deceased grandfather was a famous writer…. She became a Hammett authority so she could represent his legacy. For Rivett, it’s tough to separate the man from the writer. “His personality is inherent in his writing – which is logical, succinct, thoughtful. Even his inability to write for all those years was about his devotion to perfection.” She adds, “I’ve come to feel a great fondness and attachment to him.”
BookPage/Web Exclusive, October 14, 2014
The baffling 1922 murder of director William Desmond Taylor gets true-crime treatment in Tinseltown, a compelling interweaving of star power, the machinations of power brokers and the desperation of the wannabes and the washed up. Together they provide the book’s apt subtitle: “Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood.”
Orange Coast, November 2014
Another Orange County exists beyond the sunshine, surf and shimmering national image as a haven from crime. And it’s not always pretty.