Tag Archives: David Milch

For Pete’s Sake

22 Oct

He runs the Cassidy crime family. Little people with enormous heads, every one if them. And they’ve all have been shot in the head, and they never die They believe it’s the luck of the Irish—they walk around thinking they were all born lucky—and it never occurred to any them yet that if they were that fucking lucky, they wouldn’t keep getting shot- Pete Dexter

Pete Dexter [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

Pete Dexter [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

If you enjoy the fiction of Pete Dexter,who came to some prominence for his 1988 National Book Award winning novel, Paris Trout, it has been a too long since the publication of his last novel —the splendidly humorous near autobiographical Spooner.Dexter’s ouevre ranges from the hard scrabble working class Philadelphia (God’s Pocket) to the still somewhat untamed of (Deadwood)* of Wild Bill Hickcock and Calamity Jane to the steamy back woods and death row of Florida (The Paper Boy) to the noir atmospherics of 1953 Los Angeles. Before he took up writing novels, Dexter was a popular columnist for a major Philadelphia daily who in 1981 was severely beaten by a mob in the neighborhood of Schuylkill (upset by a recent column} suffering a broken back, pelvic bone, brain damage, and major dental damage.This incident is fictionalized in God”s Pocket**

The good news is that Pete Dexter is offering his trenchant view of our current state of affairs at the Daily Beast— on subjects such as serial woman beater Floyd Merriweather, the short fingered vulgarian running for president, police violence,shelter dogs,Norman Mailer and more:

…You may remember Mailer—at one time America’s most famous living writer—a man fascinated by violence who stabbed one of his wives and bragged about sparring with former light-heavyweight champion José Torres. Who directed a movie called “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” and once used his considerable literary standing to convince a parole board to release a violent killer named Jack Abbott, whose undeveloped literary talent in Mailer’s judgment made his release from prison worth the risk to society. Mailer could make this call because he was the most talented novelist of his generation, or so said Norman Mailer.

Thus Abbott got out and for six weeks, mostly on Mailer’s say-so, was New York’s newest hot literary property, and then stabbed a 22-year-old kid named Richard Adan to death outside the diner where Adan worked, this in an argument over insurance regulations that prohibited customers from walking through the kitchen to the bathroom.

Abbott went back to prison and eventually hung himself in his cell. A good idea but too late to do anybody any good. Mailer never admitted to second thoughts, if any existed. Literature, he said, was worth the risk. The fact that Adan was trying to make something of himself on the stage—both as a playwright and an actor—didn’t matter. Novels, Mailer famously said, could change the world….

By the way, if you haven’t read Spooner and now are so moved by my encomium I would wear diapers while reading it as so high is the hilarity quotient that bladder control may be difficult…

* Producer of the HBO series Deadwood David Milch clims he did not read Dexter’s novel of the same name

** There is a film version of God’s Pocket with Phillip Seymor Hoffman

The Vast Wasteland

30 Jan

In the half century since JFK appointed FCC Commissioner Newton Minnow pronounced television a cultural “vast wasteland” one could argue that some signs of life have blossomed, Thankfully that’s beside the point today’s modest feuilleton. Suffice it to say that if what used to be called the small screen had spawned no more than HBO’s The Wire that would be sufficient to justify its previous aridity.

Arguably there are (many) other high points in television history (which understandably was hindered by the necessity of collecting large numbers of viewers) but its not a stretch to award HBO with coming up with a different model for programming (keep in mind HBO’s motto, “It’s not television, its HBO.”) Which brings me HBO’s latest offering, Luck

Whatever disclosure is worth, this 9 episode series is being touted as a collaboration between two masters, director Michael Mann( Thief) and writer producer David Milch (Deadwood). Now I don’t doubt Milch’s credentials and talents but I do find his claim of being unaware of Pete Dexter’s wonderful novel Deadwood disingenuous. But, to quote, Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes.”

In any case, Luck with Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina (a Michael Mann favorite),Joan Allen. Jill Hennessy,Nick Nolte, Michael Gambon (playing even nastier than his role in Open Range) and a wonderful ensemble cast, muck about legendary Santa Anita race track involved in any number of high-jinks and naturally mayhem follows.Though one may look upon the intricacies of the Sport of Kings indifferently even a non-horsey person (like myself) was entranced by the race footage and splendor of these complex animals.

Having watched the whole season’s episodes, Luck does make it through the backstretch to deliver at the finish.

Sadly, NBC cancelled their version of Prime Suspect (first done in England with the incomparable Helen Mirren) with Maria Bello.

For the time being you can still catch the first and last season’s episodes here

In addition to the Closer and Law and Order reruns what does that leave on the television horizon? I have heard good things about Shameless, and Breaking Bad but not enough to move me to watch.Justified apparently is in its 3rd season and in an uncharacteristic move, Elmore Leonard has written Raylon (Wm Morrow) another story about Raylon Givens, hero of the series and protagonist of a previous novel, Riding the Rap.

Currently reading Midnight Alley by Miles Corwin (Oceanview Publishing)