For this Mystery Monday I want to tell you about a great American writer whose name you might not know: Elmore Leonard (1925–2013). As with Philip K. Dick, another great American writer, it’s quite possible you’ve seen a movie based on his work without realizing it. In fact, Elmore Leonard gives Stephen King a run for the money when it comes to works adapted to film.
Two of my very favorite films, Get Shorty (1995) and Jackie Brown (1997), are adaptations of Leonard’s novels. The former is the second film that restarted John Travolta’s career, and many believe the success of the film greatly depends on the source material (I quite agree).
If you like crime fiction, you definitely want to get into Elmore Leonard.
I’ll get to the delightful alien eyes later, but I want to start this Sci-Fi Saturday post with a different delight: A Trick of Light, a novel by Stan Lee. Yeah, that Stan Lee. Along with Kat Rosenfield. And no, there are no pictures, comic or otherwise.
What is there is a fast, breezy, comic-book-like story about a guy and a gal and some interesting stuff that happens to them. I read the whole thing in one long afternoon, night, and into the AM, because it was hard to put down. “Just one more chapter” grew to reading the whole thing. It was a lot of fun.
There is also an interesting but somewhat less delightful book (a trilogy, actually) to tell you about. I have some definite mixed feeling about the author and his books.
One of the older notes on my idea board is a tiny Post-It™ with just a single word written on it: recrudescence. Wiktionary defines it as: “The condition or state being recrudescent; the condition of something (often undesirable) breaking out again, or re-emerging after temporary abatement or suppression.”
It is primarily a medical term referring to a disease reoccurring; the second Wiktionary definition is: “The acute recurrence of a disease, or its symptoms, after a period of improvement.”
But when I encountered the word several years ago, it struck me as a very good word for this “post-factual” era: the Dark Ages rises again.
It started out as conversation about how Edge of Tomorrow is the best big screen SF movie to come along in a good long while. That led to a ranking of recent SF movies with very high marks going to Elysium and Ender’s Game. It also touched on that Tom Cruise has made four — no, five! — SF films, at least two of which are very good.
Of course that led to talk of actors and how Jodie Foster and Matt Damon seem (unlike, for example, poor Sandra Bullock) to have excellent taste in what scripts they accept. If either of those two — let alone both — is in a movie, it’s probably pretty decent. Talk of actors in SF films naturally lead to Keanu Reeves whose ancestry and acting style make him such a perfect choice in certain roles.
And that lead to what a damn shame it is they tried to remake The Day the Earth Stood Still.
For the record: I am not a fan of Steven Spielberg‘s movies. I do not like them on DVD; I do not like them in theater three. I do not like them on VHS; I do not like them — I said that, yes! And let me be clear: sometimes when I say I don’t like something, it means I’m neutral; I neither like nor dislike. But in this case, I do mean I actively dislike his movies.
I will readily agree that this, almost universally beloved, director-writer-producer is brilliant at his craft. He’s clearly one of the most successful directors in modern movie history. But I stand with a (very!) small number of critics who find his movies morally shallow and blatantly emotional. Even worse, they are peppered with what I call “Spielbergisms.”
It all started with the damned mashed potatoes.