Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Good Life

For those of you kind enough to ask where the hell Thriller Guy has been, he’s been off in the lush environs of Napa, California, visiting his chef/farmer son. TG has one question: How does anyone who lives out there ever get anything done? It is an undeniably beautiful place with great food and drink and everyone was nice to TG, even on the highway. OK, maybe it’s two questions: What is wrong with these people?

When TG visits a new place he tries to imagine himself living and working there. In this case, maybe in Yountville, or St. Helena, in the valley, a little, light-filled bungalow, avocado tree in the backyard, sitting in his studio in front of his computer, looking out on the surrounding mountains and vineyards, having a glass or two of excellent local wine with lunch, maybe TG will just lie down for a minute and rest his eyes, zzzzzz. Then the day is over and nothing got written. Listen to TG: You can walk down the street and pick your food off the trees that hang over the sidewalk. Even the homeless live the life of Riley. (Aside… do young people today even know who Riley was and what the phrase Living the Life of Riley means? A quick dip intothe waters of Wikipedia turns up some interesting and valuable time-wasting information. TG is not going to go into it here, but anyone who remembers the hapless Riley uttering the words, “Ain’t this a revoltin’ development” with any fondness at all will probably enjoy the article.) Back to the homeless.

The weather in Napa pretty much year round makes sleeping under the bridge as easy as a trip to a spa. TG saw homeless people with several varieties of pets. If you can convince someone to slip you some gin, you can make a decent martini just from the landscape around you. Would you like lemon or olives with that, sir?

It makes sense that this is where most of the screenplays get written. Writing a screenplay -- as opposed to a novel -- is like going on vacation. TG should know, he’s got a drawer full of them. They’re only 120 pages long and most of that is white space. There’s plenty of software free on the Interweb that will format the thing for you. You can crank a decent script out in a couple of weeks. Any movie producers out there? Want to see a couple of scripts? Just ask TG, he’ll get them in the mail right away.

TG has written before about his life in Montana when he was married to A Very Rich Woman and how they lived in the mountains in a beautiful house. TG sat for a couple of weeks in his bright, airy writing room, looking out over the beautiful, snow-capped Bitterroot Mountains, getting no work done until he moved his desk and chair into the basement next to a giant furnace and finally got cracking. TG still works in a basement with no windows to the outer world. When the clock says 8 o’clock, TG has to stop and think – AM or PM? TG needs seasons to force him to his desk. Adversity. Snow in the forecast? Good! Let’s get to work! Heat. Over a hundred degrees outside? Great! It’s cool down here in the basement, let’s get to work!

All this got TG thinking about how it might work if he were hired to go to California to write a movie or something. Maybe he could get set up at a seedy hotel like Barton Fink in the movie of the same name, a movie that was all about a writer trying to write. A really ratty place where there was nothing to do except hunker down and write. This led TG to head over to Wikipedia where he found that the Coen brothers wrote Barton Fink because they were in the middle of writing Millers Crossing and they got stuck. So they left California, went back to New York, wrote Fink, then finished Millers Crossing. The way I see it, they needed to get out of California and experience the wonderful adversity of New York to bump them back into creativity.

Nothing of any real importance gets written in California. Yeah, sure, I know you’re going to throw names at me like Raymond Carver and Edgar Rice Burroughs, but really, there are historically and presently ten times the number of excellent writers in New York City alone compared to all of California.

And why not? If TG lived there, he’d be just like everyone else. Yes, he’ll have a couple of olives in his martini. You can pick them off that tree right over there.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Reaper Report

Henning Mankell has died, and he will be sorely missed by all intelligent mystery readers. Is it just TG, or did Mankell begin to look more and more like Johnny Cash in the last few years? Just asking. His long-running Inspector Kurt Wallander mysteries are wonderfully written with complex characters and complex plots. They have been made into several series, both in Sweden and by the BBC, where Kenneth Branagh stars as Wallander. Many of Thriller Guy’s friends like the Swedish version better, but TG, being a big Branagh fan, likes the BBC series the best.  

TG is going to be out of town for a few weeks, and he suggests that you check out his friend Allen Appel's memoir about growing up inWest Virginia in the 1950s. Lotsa sex and laughs. And while you’re at it, why not scoot over to Amazon and pick up some Appel novels? Even if you’ve read the entire Alex Balfour series there’s other gems that are just as good, so give them a try.

Thanks. See you in a couple of weeks.