Thursday, March 30, 2017

Notes For March 30th, 2017

This Day In Literary History

On March 30th, 1820, the famous English children's book writer Anna Sewell was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. She was born into a devoutly religious Quaker family. She had one sibling, a younger brother named Philip.

As a young girl, Anna Sewell was mostly educated at home by her mother, who established a strict regime of schooling heavily influenced by her religious beliefs.

When Anna was twelve, her family moved to Stoke Newington, where she began her formal education. For the first time, she was able to study subjects new to her, such as mathematics and foreign languages.

Two years later, at the age of fourteen, Anna took a nasty fall while walking home from school. She severely injured both her ankles, and medicine in 1834 was primitive. She never received proper treatment.

As a result, Anna would remain practically lame for the rest of her life, unable to stand without a crutch or walk more than a few steps.

In 1836, Anna's father took a job in Brighton, partly because he hoped the climate there would improve his daughter's health. Meanwhile, Anna used horse-drawn carriages to get around, which led her to develop a love of horses and a strong belief in the humane treatment of animals.

Anna Sewell's first introduction to professional writing was through her mother, who was a children's book writer. Mary Wright Sewell had written a series of evangelical children's books that was quite popular during its time.

Another of her books, a poetry collection called Mother's Last Words, sold millions of copies. Anna would often help edit her mother's manuscripts.

Later, when she was a grown woman, Anna met many writers, artists, and philosophers as she traveled throughout Europe, visiting spas in an attempt to restore her health. Unfortunately, her health would continue to deteriorate.

Anna would return to England and settle in Old Catton, a village outside of Norwich in Norfolk. She contracted tuberculosis, and her health would decline to the point that she was often bedridden. In 1871, at the age of 51, she began work on a novel.

She wrote it partly to pass the time, partly to inspire those who worked with horses to be kind to the animals. At the time, horses were often beaten by their owners and forced to pull wagons and carriages that were overloaded. Many horses died on their feet from exhaustion - while still wearing their harnesses.

To make carriage horses look attractive, some cruel fashions were employed, such as docking, where a horse's tail would be cut short, causing the animal great pain and leaving it vulnerable to insect bites and stings. Another cruel fashion was the bearing rein.

The bearing rein held the horse's head toward its chest. This gave the horse's neck a graceful arc, but it also left the animal unable to breathe properly, which resulted in respiratory problems. The bearing rein also caused horses to suffer from very poor vision and loss of balance.

Anna Sewell completed her novel six years later, in 1877. She struggled to write it, but was determined to finish it. When she was too weak to write, she dictated to her mother. When the novel was completed, Anna sold it to a publisher, Jarrolds, for £40.

Although she never intended it to be a children's book,
Black Beauty would rightfully be considered one of the greatest works of children's literature ever written.

Black Beauty
is a novel in the form of a memoir - the autobiography of a black stallion named Black Beauty. Beginning with his carefree childhood as a colt on an English farm, he tells the story of his life.

Most poignant are his recollections of his hard life in London, where he pulled taxicabs for a living. Black Beauty tells many tales of cruelty and kindness as he chronicles his life, ending his story on a bright note as he retires to a happy life in the country.

Anna Sewell's eye for detail - specifically, her extensive and accurate descriptions of the behavior of horses - gives the novel a great sense of realism, despite the fact that it's a story narrated by a horse.

Her descriptions of the hard life of working horses led to reforms benefiting horse-drawn taxi drivers so they wouldn't have to work the animals so hard to make a decent living.

The initial sales of
Black Beauty would break all the current publishing records. The novel would go on to sell over 30,000,000 copies.

Sadly, Anna Sewell wouldn't live to see the runaway success of her novel. She died of tuberculosis five months after it was published, in 1878, at the age of 58.
Black Beauty would be adapted several times for the screen and television.

Quote Of The Day

"There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast, it is all a sham." - Anna Sewell

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Anna Sewell's classic children's novel,
Black Beauty. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Notes For March 29th, 2017

This Day In Literary History

On March 29th, 1936, the famous American novelist Judith Guest was born in Detroit, Michigan. The famous poet Edgar Guest was her great-uncle. Judith Guest studied English and psychology at the University of Michigan, where she belonged to the Sigma Kappa sorority.

In 1975, Guest wrote her first novel. Having no agent, she decided to sell it herself. Her first two submissions were rejected. The first publisher rejected the novel without comment.

The second enclosed a note with her rejection slip saying that "While the book has some satiric bite, overall the level of writing does not sustain interest and we will have to decline it."

The third submission proved to be the charm. An editor at Viking Press immediately bought Guest's novel. It was the first time in over 25 years that Viking had bought and published an unsolicited manuscript.

The release of the novel was far from immediate; the editor held it back for eight months, so that it would hit bookstores in July of 1976 - the time of the bicentennial celebration in the United States.

To release this particular novel around the time of the country's 200th birthday was clever, as it told the story of an all-American family that falls apart after its mask of perfection is suddenly ripped off. Ordinary People would become a classic novel and make Judith Guest's name as a writer.

Ordinary People opens with the Jarretts, a wealthy upper class family who live in a big house in an exclusive neighborhood in Lake Forest, Illinois, appearing to have come to terms with the sudden death of oldest son Buck in a sailing accident six months earlier.

Then, younger son Conrad, 17, attempts suicide by slashing his wrists. He had been suffering from severe depression, as he was on the boat with Buck when a sudden storm hit, and his brother was killed.

Conrad's parents, Cal and Beth, commit him to a psychiatric hospital. After eight months of treatment, he returns home and goes back to school, but his unresolved issues threaten his sanity.

His father, Cal, encourages him to see a therapist. Resistant at first, Conrad agrees to therapy and begins seeing Dr. Tyrone Berger, an eccentric psychiatrist. He begins to open up and Dr. Berger helps him work through his issues.

Conrad's issues include survivor's guilt and an apathetic mother. Beth Jarrett has an anal-retentive "type A" personality and is maniacally devoted to perfection. Determined to be the perfect wife and mother, she keeps a perfect house and had built a perfect family.

But that perfection was shattered when Buck died, and now she is incapable of grieving for him, feeling for her troubled surviving son, or dealing with the fact that her perfect life has been shattered.

Beth's husband, Cal, a tax attorney, grew up in an orphanage after losing his mother at the age of 11. He never knew his father. Becoming successful and wealthy after enduring a poor and unhappy childhood is a source of great pride to Cal.

He always believed himself lucky, but now that his family is falling apart, he begins to wonder who and what he really is and where his life is headed. To add to his mid life crisis, his wife Beth has become cold, distant, and frigid. His marriage is crumbling.

The experimental narrative switches between Cal and Conrad's points of view and includes interior monologues and stream-of-consciousness narration. Ordinary People won Judith Guest the Janet Heidiger Kafka Prize for best first novel.

Before the novel hit the bookstores, legendary actor-filmmaker Robert Redford got a hold of a preview edition. He loved the book, bought the movie rights, and directed the feature film adaptation, which was released in 1980.

The highly acclaimed film, which starred Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, and Timothy Hutton, won several Academy Awards. Redford took home the Best Director Oscar for his directorial debut.

With the success of the film, the novel became a subject of study for middle and high school English classes. This led to challenges from some disgruntled parents due to the dark subject matter and a brief sex scene between the troubled, teenage Conrad and his new girlfriend, Jeannine.

Ordinary People would be the first of several novels by Judith Guest that dealt with adolescents in crisis. Her most recent novel, A Tarnished Eye, (2004) was loosely based on a real life crime that took place in her native Michigan.

In this novel, the rural community of Blessed, Michigan, is shattered when an entire family - a couple and their four children - are found savagely murdered in their summer home. The Sheriff, Hugh DeWitt, still reeling from the death of his infant son, must deal with his grief as he tries to solve the murders.

There had been a history of conflict between the locals and the rich city folk who come to Blessed to buy up the land for their vacation estates. Could that have been the motivation for such a monstrous crime?

Quote Of The Day

"I wanted to explore the anatomy of depression — how it works and why it happens to people; how you can go from being down but able to handle it, to being so down that you don’t even want to handle it, and then taking a radical step with your life — trying to commit suicide — and failing at that, coming back to the world and having to 'act normal' when, in fact, you have been forever changed." - Judith Guest on her classic novel, Ordinary People.

Vanguard Video

Today's video features the original theatrical trailer for the highly acclaimed 1980 feature film adaptation of Judith Guest's classic debut novel, Ordinary People. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Notes For March 28th, 2017

This Day In Literary History

On March 28th, 1909, the famous American writer Nelson Algren was born. He was born Nelson Ahlgren Abraham in Detroit, Michigan, to a German Jewish mother and a Swedish father who had converted to Judaism. When Nelson was three, his family moved to Chicago.

The Abrahams first settled in the South Side. When Nelson was eight, they moved to an apartment in the North Side. Nelson would remain a lifelong White Sox fan.

As a child growing up in Cubs country, the other kids teased him frequently for being a White Sox fan. The teasing would increase exponentially during the Black Sox Scandal of 1920, when it was revealed that eight White Sox players had been bribed to throw the World Series.

In 1931, Neslon Algren graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor's degree in journalism. Unfortunately, with the Great Depression in full effect, all he could do to make ends meet was drift around the country looking for work like so many others did.

Two years later, Algren wrote his first short story, So Help Me. At the time, he was working at a gas station in Texas. Before his planned return home to Chicago, he found a typewriter in an abandoned classroom and decided to take it, as very few publications accepted handwritten manuscripts.

Algren was caught, arrested, convicted of theft, and sentenced to prison. He was released after serving five months of a possible three and a half year term. While in prison, he was moved by the scores of men who were also incarcerated for taking desperate measures in desperate times.

He found kindred spirits among the outsiders, misfits, failures, and other tragic characters spawned by the Depression. They would strongly influence his writing. In 1935, his short story The Brother's House, was published by Story magazine. It won him his first of three O. Henry Awards.

That same year, Algren published his first novel, Somebody in Boots. It sold only 750 copies before going out of print, which didn't bother the author because he considered it primitive - his worst work.

His second novel, Never Come Morning (1942), courted many good reviews. Ernest Hemingway wrote of it, "I think it very, very good. It is as fine and good stuff to come out of Chicago..." The novel also courted controversy.

Never Come Morning told the haunting, tragic, and lyrical story of Bruno "Lefty" Bicek, a small time hoodlum and aspiring prizefighter from the "Polish Triangle" - the Polish section of Chicago's North Side. Algren tells the story without pronouncing any moral judgement on his characters.

Growing up desperately poor, Bruno dreams of escaping the slums by becoming a boxing champion, but ultimately realizes that he was born a thug and will be a thug until the day he dies - a revelation that comes when he fails to save his girlfriend Steffi Rostenkowski from being gang raped by his thug buddies.

Algren's grim and frank depictions of the Polish Triangle as a cesspool of crime, corruption, misery, and hopelessness outraged Polish-American groups in Chicago, who accused him of being a Nordic Nazi sympathizer.

They didn't realize hat he was actually Jewish and a leftist. Nevertheless, the pressure groups succeeded in getting Never Come Morning banned by the Chicago Public Library.

In 1949, Nelson Algren published his most famous novel, The Man With the Golden Arm. It would win him the National Book Award. The Polish-American protagonist, Francis Majcinek, known as Frankie Machine, is a professional card sharp.

Also an aspiring jazz drummer, Frankie longs to escape the seedy world of professional gambling by becoming a professional musician, but his personal problems threaten both his dream and his life.

When he served in World War II, Frankie took shrapnel in his liver and was treated with morphine. Now he's a morphine addict - a habit he refers to as the "thirty-five-pound monkey on his back." He keeps his friends and wife in the dark about his habit, which is a source of shame for him.

Speaking of his wife, Frankie is trapped in a miserable marriage to wheelchair-bound Sophie, whom he thinks he crippled in a drunk driving accident. Her paralysis is actually psychological, and she takes her frustration out on Frankie, using guilt to keep him from leaving her. The stress adds to his drug habit.

After Frankie ends up accidentally killing his drug supplier "Nifty Louie" Fomorowski, he and his friend, petty crook Sparrow Saltskin, cover up Frankie's involvement in the crime. Then, Frankie's life takes a turn for the better when he has an affair with his childhood sweetheart, Molly "Molly-O" Novotny.

Molly was also trapped in a rotten marriage until her abusive husband got arrested. Reunited with Frankie, she uses her love to help him beat his drug addiction. Unfortunately, Frankie screws up again, but in a different way - he gets busted for shoplifting.

While Frankie serves his time, Molly moves away and they lose contact. After his release, without Molly to lean on, Frankie goes back on the needle. After his friend Sparrow breaks down during an intense police interrogation over the death of Nifty Louie, Frankie must go on the lam.

While on the run, Frankie finds Molly working at a strip joint. He hides out at her apartment and, with her help, kicks his drug addiction once and for all. The cops learn where he's hiding and he's forced to flee again. He barely escapes from them.

Hiding out in a sleazy flophouse, Frankie realizes that he'll never be free or have his Molly again, so he commits suicide, hanging himself in his room. The novel ends with a poem for Frankie called Epitaph.

Several years after The Man With the Golden Arm was published, the legendary director Otto Preminger decided to adapt it as a feature film. Unfortunately, the stifling Production Code was still in effect, and the Code forbade any stories dealing with drugs.

In 1953, Preminger successfully defied the Production Code to adapt the risque romantic comedy The Moon is Blue, which had been a hit Broadway play. When the PCA (Production Code Administration) once again denied him a Code Seal for The Man With the Golden Arm, Preminger released it without one, like he'd done for The Moon is Blue.

He had several key factors working in his favor. The Legion of Decency didn't condemn the film. Theater owners, granted independence from the studios in a landmark Supreme Court antitrust decision in 1948, didn't care about the Code Seal anymore. Last, but certainly not least, Preminger had cast legendary singer Frank Sinatra in the lead role.

The film adaptation of The Man With the Golden Arm was a cinematic milestone in that it finally cajoled Hollywood to amend the Production Code, which hadn't changed in over 25 years. It was also the first Hollywood feature film in over two decades to deal with drug addiction as its main theme.

Even anti-drug propaganda films like Reefer Madness (1936), Marihuana (1936), and The Cocaine Fiends (1935) could only be made by low budget exploitation filmmakers and booked into small, local theaters. The Production Code forbade studios from making drug movies.

Despite Frank Sinatra's excellent performance as Frankie Machine, Nelson Algren hated Otto Preminger's adaptation of his novel. He had been brought in as a screenwriter, then quickly replaced by Walter Newman.

Although an acclaimed film and a big hit at the box office, the screenplay took extensive liberties with the novel and featured a completely different ending. To make matters worse, Algren, believing he had been duped into selling the adaptation rights for far less than they were worth, sued producer-director Otto Preminger for his fair share. He lost.

During the 1950s, Nelson Algren ran afoul of McCarthyism - the government's relentless and mostly illegal persecutions of suspected communists and communist sympathizers.

Algren never joined the Communist Party because of negative experiences he and his friend, legendary African-American novelist Richard Wright, had at the hands of party members. However, he had belonged to the John Reed Club, a social club for left-leaning artists, writers, and intellectuals.

He had also belonged to a committee that protested the persecution of alleged spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were both executed. So, the FBI began surveillance of Algren, deeming him a subversive.

The FBI's dossier on Nelson Algren would clock in at over 500 pages long, but never contain any concrete evidence against him. Still, the government denied him a passport until 1960.

He had wanted to visit his girlfriend, legendary French writer and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, in Paris. By the time he finally got his passport, their relationship had begun to wane.

In 1956, Algren finally followed up The Man With the Golden Arm with another classic novel. A Walk on the Wild Side opens in South Texas during the early years of the Great Depression, telling the story of Dove Linkhorn, another casualty of the Depression and of his own upbringing.

At 16, Dove is illiterate. His father refused to allow him to go to school because the principal was Catholic. So, he learned about life from the movies and from the hobos, pimps, prostitutes, hustlers, and bootleggers who lived and worked nearby.

Another denizen of the town is Terasina Vidavarri, the owner of a bleak little cafe who teaches Dove how to read. Terasina was once raped by a soldier. She and Dove become lovers, though he rapes her as well.

Dove begins hopping trains to look for work. His surreal, poetic, tragicomic adventures find him working everywhere from a steamship to a brothel to a condom factory. He also gets caught up in petty crime and has many affairs before ultimately returning to Terasina's cafe.

This novel was most famous for containing Nelson Algren's "three rules of life," which were "Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own."

A Walk on the Wild Side was adapted as a feature film in 1962, but because the Production Code was still in effect, the novel was bowdlerized and changed considerably for the screen.

Despite the efforts of the great director Edward Dmytryk behind the camera and Laurence Harvey in the lead role, the film was a bomb at the box office.

Bosley Crowther, the celebrated film critic for The New York Times, panned the movie, describing it in his review as a "lurid, tawdry, and sleazy melodrama."

In 1975, Nelson Algren was commissioned to write a magazine article on the trial of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who had been convicted again for a double murder he didn't commit.

Carter wouldn't be acquitted until 1985, when his convictions were overturned after a Federal Appeals Court determined that he'd been the victim of racism and malicious prosecution.

While researching his article, Algren visited Carter's hometown of Paterson, New Jersey, and liked it so much that he decided to live there. He spent five years in Paterson before moving to Long Island, where he died at home of a heart attack. He was 72 years old.

Quote Of The Day

"A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery." - Nelson Algren

Vanguard Video

Today's video features rare footage of Nelson Algren chatting with Studs Terkel at a party in Chicago, circa 1975. Enjoy!

Monday, March 27, 2017

IWW Members' Publishing Successes

James Pitcher

Having been inspired by the success of others, I decided to have a go at writing Haikus. One is included in the latest issue of the Haiku Journal. This is very exciting for me as I'm new to writing and this is my first publication.

Sala Wyman

My review of “Evelyn Dove: Britain's Black Cabaret Queen,” by Stephen Bourne is up at the Internet Review of Books! I am soooo thrilled.

Lori Brody

Story in Synaestesia today, "Undark."

Kristy Kassie

Just found out my flash fiction, “Different Eyes”, is scheduled for publication on on April 25, 2017.

Theresa A. Cancro

My poem, “Inside Rain,” originally published in Issue 2 of The Rainbow Journal (2014), was republished in The Weekly Avocet, #222.

One haiku of mine has been published in the March 2017 issue of Stardust Haiku, an online haiku journal. Scroll to page 4.
Three of my haiku are included in the Kindle edition of “Every Chicken, Cow, Fish and Frog: Animal Rights Haiku,” a collection of haiku and related short-form poetry. This anthology is available in softcover and Kindle editions from Amazon.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Notes For March 24th, 2017

This Day In Literary History

On March 24th, 1955, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the classic play by legendary American playwright Tennessee Williams, opened on Broadway. The play focused on a Southern family in crisis - the affluent Pollitt family.

The Pollitts hide their dark secrets under a cloak of respectability. The extended family has gathered to celebrate the 65th birthday of patriarch Big Daddy Pollitt, the richest cotton grower in the Mississippi Delta.

The family knows that Big Daddy is dying of cancer and won't live to see another birthday, but have conspired to keep him (and his wife, Big Mama) from finding out about his terminal condition.

All of Big Daddy's kin ingratiate themselves to him, hoping to receive the lion's share of his huge estate when he dies - all of them except indifferent son Brick Pollitt, who, along with his wife Maggie, (the Cat) are having serious marital problems.

Brick is an aging, injured, detached alcoholic ex-football hero who neglects his wife and spends most of his time drinking and railing against mendacity. A desperate Maggie reveals to Brick that she had an affair with his best friend Skipper, even though she knew that Skipper was secretly gay.

Suspecting that her husband might also be gay, Maggie seduced Skipper to prevent anything from happening between the two men. The affair drove Skipper to drink and suicide.

A disgusted Big Daddy has similar suspicions. He accuses Brick of drinking to escape his guilt over not saving Skipper from suicide - because he and Skipper were more than just best friends.

Furious, Brick reveals that Big Daddy is dying. Maggie, knowing that the old man never made out a will, panics and fears that he'll disinherit Brick. She escaped a miserable childhood of grinding poverty and despair when she married into the rich Pollitt family.

The prospect of being poor again terrifies here, so she falsely claims to be pregnant to win her father in-law's sympathy. Later, Maggie throws away Brick's liquor, telling him:

We can make that lie come true. And then I'll bring you liquor, and we'll get drunk together, here, tonight, in this place that death has come into!

The original Broadway production was directed by Elia Kazan and starred Ben Gazzara as Brick, Barbara Bel Geddes as Maggie, and legendary folksinger-actor Burl Ives as Big Daddy.

Gazzara's understudy was a young actor named Cliff Robertson, who would go on to become a star of stage, screen, and television. But when Gazzara left the play, Jack Lord replaced him.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof won Tennessee Williams a Pulitzer Prize - his second. He won his first Pulitzer for his famous play, A Streetcar Named Desire. In 1958, three years after Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opened on Broadway, a feature film adaptation was released.

Directed by Richard Brooks, it starred Paul Newman as Brick and Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie, with Burl Ives and Madeleine Sherwood reprising their Broadway roles as Big Daddy and Big Mama.

Unfortunately, due to the stifling Hollywood Production Code in effect at the time, the screenplay toned down Tennessee Williams' play considerably, removing all the sexual elements of the story.

Richard Brooks was not the studio's first choice to direct the film; it had been offered to George Cukor, but he turned it down in disgust after reading the bowdlerized screenplay.

As for Tennessee Williams' reaction, he hated the movie so much that he told people on line for the premiere not to see it, saying "This movie will set the industry back 50 years. Go home!"

Quote Of The Day

"Why did I write? Because I found life unsatisfactory." - Tennessee Williams

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete live performance of Tennessee Williams' classic play,Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Notes For March 23rd, 2017

This Day In Literary History

On March 23rd, 1999, the famous American writer Thomas Harris delivered the completed manuscript for his classic fourth novel, Hannibal, to his publishers.

It was the third in a series of four novels featuring his most famous character - Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist, classical music enthusiast, wine connoisseur, and gourmet turned cannibalistic serial killer - who had been terrifying readers for nearly 20 years.

(Harris's classic debut novel, Black Sunday (1975), told the story of a psychotic Vietnam veteran who conspires with a terrorist group to bomb the Super Bowl. It was adapted as an acclaimed film in 1977, directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Robert Shaw and Bruce Dern.)

Lecter made his debut in Red Dragon (1981), where he was called upon by Will Graham - the FBI agent who captured him - to help profile a new serial killer, Francis Dolarhyde, aka the Red Dragon.

The sequel, The Silence of the Lambs (1988) found Lecter called on again, this time by trainee FBI agent Clarice Starling, to help her gain insight into the mind of Buffalo Bill, aka Jame Gumb, a depraved serial killer who has abducted a Senator's daughter.

Although Red Dragon was filmed first in 1986 as Manhunter, (featuring British actor Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter) it would be the film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs in 1991 that made Hannibal Lecter a pop culture icon.

Stylishly directed by Jonathan Demme and featuring stellar performances by Anthony Hopkins as Lecter, Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, and Ted Levine as Jame Gumb, the film swept the Academy Awards.

It became only the third movie in history to win all five major Oscars - Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster), Best Director (Demme), Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

After the huge success of The Silence of the Lambs, fans were clamoring for a sequel. It took some ten years for Thomas Harris to deliver. Hannibal was the result.

In this novel, Lecter himself is Agent Starling's quarry, as he escaped from custody in The Silence of the Lambs. What Starling doesn't know is that someone else is hunting Lecter.

Mason Verger is a victim of Lecter's who survived. Verger, the wealthy heir to a meat packing empire, was a depraved, sadistic pedophile whose long list of victims included his own little sister, Margot. When his father established a Christian summer camp for children, Verger used it to prey on more young victims.

When he was finally caught and arrested, Verger avoided jail time because of his family's wealth and position. He was ordered to perform community service and receive therapy. His court appointed psychiatrist? Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

The good doctor's idea of therapy was to have Verger take hallucinogenic drugs, manipulate him into demonstrating his technique of autoerotic asphyxiation via hanging, then make him slash his own face to ribbons with a shard of broken glass and feed his mutilated flesh to his dogs.

Lecter then hanged Verger with his own noose, breaking his neck. Verger survived, but was left a quadriplegic with a horribly mangled face. He wants to catch Lecter before Agent Starling does and take revenge.

The revenge Verger has planned is a fate worse than death, and he has FBI officials on his payroll - including Starling's superior, Paul Krendler. Hannibal received mixed reviews due to its controversial ending, which I won't give away.

I will say that it does make sense after all that happens to Clarice Starling throughout the novel, and fits in well with the dark surrealism (and dark humor) of the story for a chilling, memorable coda.

I for one enjoyed Hannibal immensely. I believe it's the best book Harris has written so far, second only to The Silence of the Lambs. Horror master Stephen King, a big fan of the Hannibal Lecter series, proclaimed Hannibal, along with William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist (1971), to be the two greatest modern horror novels of all time.

Hannibal would be adapted as a feature film in 2001, with Anthony Hopkins returning as Lecter and Julianne Moore taking over the role of Clarice Starling.

Directed by Ridley Scott, it received mixed reviews from fans because the screenplay (written by David Mamet and Steven Zaillian) omitted a major character (Margot Verger) and changed the ending of the novel.

To placate fans, the screenwriters did include part of the novel's ending - the famous Grand Guignol scene where Dr. Lecter lobotomizes corrupt FBI official Paul Krendler and... well... serves him a most unusual gourmet dinner.

Unfortunately, the most shocking part of the novel's ending - the fate of Clarice Starling - was omitted from the screenplay, which featured a completely different outcome.

Thomas Harris followed Hannibal with a a fourth novel, a prequel called Hannibal Rising (2006), which was published seven years later.

Expanding on flashbacks that appeared in Hannibal, it told the dark and chilling story of how a frighteningly intelligent little Lithuanian boy named Hannibal Lecter grew up to be the monster we know and love.

In 2013, a Hannibal TV series premiered. Featuring the great Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen in the title role, the series was a prequel to Red Dragon, with Lecter helping FBI special agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) hunt bizarre and sadistic serial killers.

An unusual friendship develops between the two men, but soon it becomes apparent that Graham's pursuit of serial killers - using his uncanny ability to enter their depraved minds - poses a serious threat to his sanity.

What Will doesn't realize is that the main serial killer he's been pursuing, the Chesapeake Ripper, is really the brilliant psychiatrist who's been assisting him as a consultant - Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

Stylishly gruesome and surreal, (and surprisingly graphic for network TV) the series, which ran for three seasons, was a hit with critics and viewers alike.

Quote Of The Day

"Problem solving is hunting. It is savage pleasure and we are born to it." - Thomas Harris

Vanguard Video

Today's video features the original theatrical trailer for the 2001 feature film adaptation of Thomas Harris' 1999 novel, Hannibal. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Notes For March 22nd, 2017

This Day In Literary History

On March 22nd, 1947, the legendary American writer James Patterson was born in Newburgh, New York. He earned his Master's Degree from Vanderbilt University. In 1985, at the age of 38, Patterson retired from his successful advertising career to write full time.

Before he retired from advertising, Patterson had written three novels. His first, a mystery novel called The Thomas Berryman Number (1976), won him an Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

His fifth novel, the first in a classic series of suspense thrillers, was a huge bestseller and established him as one of the greatest suspense novelists of all time.

Along Came a Spider (1993) introduced Patterson's most famous character, Alex Cross, an African-American homicide detective for the Washington, D.C. police. He's also a brilliant forensic psychologist.

The novel opens with Cross suddenly pulled off the case he's been working on - the bizarre and savage murder of two black prostitutes - and reassigned to investigate the kidnapping of two students from an exclusive private school.

Cross is angered at being pulled off his double murder case, and feels that the department cares more about rich white children that poor black women. What he doesn't know is that both cases are linked.

They are the work of Gary Soneji, a math teacher at the private school the children attended. After a standoff at a McDonald's restaurant, Soneji is captured, and Cross must figure out what he did with the children.

Using his skills as a psychologist, Cross hypnotizes Soneji several times and pieces together the horrifying truth. Soneji is a split personality. He is both Gary Murphy, a gentle teacher and loving family man, and Gary Soneji, a vicious, bloodthirsty psychopathic serial killer.

The kidnapping of the children was part of a ransom plot. In order to save the children, Cross must track down Soneji's partners in crime - a task that is complicated when Soneji escapes from prison. He wants to get to his partners - and the ransom money - before Cross does.

Along Came a Spider was adapted as a feature film in 2001, featuring Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross. There are eighteen novels in the Alex Cross series so far, with the 19th, Free Alex Cross, due for release in October. Another of James Patterson's popular suspense novel series is the Women's Murder Club series.

The first Women's Murder Club novel, 1st To Die, was published in 2001. In it, San Francisco police detective Lindsay Boxer is called to the scene of a horrific crime - a young newlywed couple has been viciously murdered in their hotel room on their wedding night, the bride still in her wedding gown.

Lindsay's investigation is complicated by her personal problems - she suffers from severe depression and a life threatening blood disease. She could use a little help, and she's about to get some.

Covering the story of the crime is Cindy Thomas, a rookie investigative reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. Lindsay and Cindy form an unlikely friendship as Lindsay begins tracking down a brutal, twisted serial killer.

Soon, two new friends join in - city medical examiner Claire Washburn and Assistant District Attorney Jill Bernhardt. The four ladies decide to pool their talents and resources to catch the serial killer, and The Women's Murder Club is born. There are eleven Women's Murder Club novels. The twelfth, 12th of Never, will be released next month.

In 2005, James Patterson began a new series of novels in a new genre - young adult fantasy. The series was called Maximum Ride and the first book, The Angel Experiment, introduced the heroine, Maximum "Max" Ride.

14-year-old Max is the leader of The Flock, a group of children ages 6-14 who are winged human-bird hybrids (98% human, 2% bird) created by genetic engineering. In addition to being able to fly, the Flock possesses other powers.

The Flock, which also includes Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy, and Angel, are on the run from the scientists who created them. The scientists have dispatched superhuman assassins called Erasers to kill off The Flock in order to keep their creations a secret.

A feature film adaptation of The Angel Experiment, titled Maximum Ride, was released last year. The film is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, and is streaming on Netflix.

In addition to his series novels, James Patterson has written many stand-alone novels. Most of his novels are huge bestsellers. In recent years, he has outsold Stephen King, John Grisham, and Dan Brown - combined. One in 17 hardcover novels sold in the United States is by James Patterson.

Patterson's philanthropic endeavors are geared toward promoting literacy. In 2005, he established the James Patterson Page Turner Awards, which awarded nearly a million dollars a year to schools, institutions, companies, and individuals who encourage people to read.

In 2008, Patterson put the Page Turner Awards on hold and began a new initiative,, which is for parents, teachers, librarians, and others who want to encourage children to read. The site helps them find the best books for kids and provides information such as lesson plans for teachers and social networking.

Quote Of The Day

"When I write I pretend I'm telling a story to someone in the room and I don't want them to get up until I'm finished." - James Patterson

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a recent interview of James Patterson at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, Australia. Enjoy!

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