Monday, March 11, 2013
If you don't already know who Scott Phillips is, your life is incomplete. He's written six of the most interesting books you could lay your hands on, starting with THE ICE HARVEST, which was made into a very entertaining film starring John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton. His books are funny, touching and outrageous (but not for the weak of heart). This is his introduction to BLONDE LIGHTNING. If you're not convinced to give that book a try when your finished reading it, just pick up THE ICE HARVEST and work your way through Scott's oeuvre. You'll be glad that you did.
Terrill Lee Lankford is one of the funniest and most opinionated people I know. He’s also got a long and torturous track record in Hollywood, the result of years of grunt labor in the deepest, darkest pits of the industry in a variety of jobs—screenwriter, second unit director, production manager, director, actor. Some of these films he’d probably rather I didn’t mention, some of them are not to be missed (if you can, check out the excellent “South of Reno,” featuring a small role for an unknown named Billy Bob Thornton) and at least one of them exists in a mysterious cinematic quantum state between the two: the sublime and ghastly “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers.” These days Doc Lankford walks a classier stretch of Hollywood Boulevard than before, but it’s those low budget days that formed his take on the Damned Movie Business. If you ever get a chance to talk to him on the subject you’re in for a very entertaining earful.
If you don’t get that chance, the next best thing is reading Blonde Lightning. I first read it years ago in manuscript form, when it and its companion novel (“Earthquake Weather,” also available as an e-book and equally worth your time and coin) were a single entity. In these books he nails a certain dank, desperate corner of LA life that’s home to those who are part of the Industry but not entirely accepted within it, who are obsessed with said Industry while being treated brutally by it, who loath it without being able to pull away from it. It’s a lot like a mutually destructive romantic relationship (and the books are full of those, too.)
I read it for the third time not long ago, and it struck me once again as one of the truest accounts I’d ever read of Hollywood culture. Certain Movieland fiction—Fitzgerald’s Pat Hobby stories, John O’Hara’s The Big Laugh and Michael Tolkin’s The Player are all good examples––never really get old, because even in the face of massive tumult in technology and in the culture at large, the human forces of artistic ambition pitted against greed and sheer lust for power never change. The technical details of the filmmaking in Blonde Lightning are, in this digital age, already the stuff of history; the story told therein will still be fresh in eighty years.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Friday, March 8, 2013
After much technical confusion in the jungle, the eBook version of BLONDE LIGHTNING is finally available on Amazon for the price of a Venti White Chocolate Mocha. This is the 2006 sequel to my novel EARTHQUAKE WEATHER, both originally published by Ballantine Books. If you haven't read that first book, it's available for FREE through the weekend so you can be up to speed when you hit BLONDE LIGHTNING.
I'll be posting a bunch of stuff about these two books over the next few days to try to drive some interest, so please be patient with me. It will all be over soon.
If you've read either of these books and enjoyed them, a good review on that site does wonders. I've watched the good reviews drive sales and the bad ones kill them. It DOES matter. If you have a moment to put a few words down over there it would be greatly appreciated.
Monday, December 10, 2012
Back in August I shot a couple of music videos for my favorite band, SPENCER THE GARDENER, as they played three concerts in Santa Barbara during the Fiesta. Their new album, BREAKING MY OWN HEART, just dropped, and so did the first of the videos. Check it out here:
And pick up that album, available on the link. It's great.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Yes, Mike and I are friends and we work together on a lot of things. But he's the most honest guy I know, so I doubt there's a word of this he doesn't believe. It's worth reading as a beautiful piece of writing about Los Angeles, even if you are not interested my work.
THE BIG MIRAGE
The City of Angels is supposed to be a desert. Los Angeles is a mirage created with water channeled and piped in from hundreds of miles away. Those palm trees aren’t supposed to be here. The lush green hillsides should be desolate and stark. In many ways that makes L.A. simply the world’s biggest set and it seems both telling and right that this is the place where we find Hollywood. Hollywood is the Big Mirage, a place where nothing and nobody is real, where faces and breasts and morals and motives are synthetic and always changeable. You don’t like this one? Then how about this one?
Perhaps no writer knows this turf better than Terrill Lee Lankford. Perhaps no book has defined it better than this one – and, I might add, from the very first line: I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell, but on any given night Los Angeles can do a pretty good imitation of either locale.
That says it all. Lankford uses the crime genre as the frame within which he hangs his painting of a place in turmoil. It is not a thick, obvious frame. It is thin, just enough to be noted at the margins. The painting is a story set in a place turned upside down by nature. Lankford uses an earthquake to viciously awaken the inhabitants from moral slumber. He turns the city on its side and casts our protagonist Mark Hayes on a journey across the treacherous landscape. I have read all of the author’s books and this no doubt is the masterpiece – so far.
This is an introduction, not an afterword, so this is all I’ll tell you in specific. You’re in for a great ride. You’ll learn things and you’ll question things. You will have emotional reaction and there is no more that you can ask of a writer.
But now for full disclosure. I know Terrill Lee Lankford. To act as though I am some sort of objective observer of the written word would be false. I have palled around Hollywood and L.A. with him for more than fifteen years. We’ve been in movie studios together, police stations, bookstores – I once missed a chance to visit a crack house with him. (Research, of course.)
We have even been in each other’s books – me in this one, Lankford in The Lincoln Lawyer. His “character” even made the jump to the screen with the movie adaptation earlier this year. But what drew us together many years ago and what still binds us as friends and colleagues now is the City of Angels and it’s so-hard-to-grasp ethos. It’s a love/hate thing from the writer’s perspective. Who wouldn’t want to write about L.A.? There are so many ways to live and so many ways to die. It is cultural mecca and meltdown, autopia and dystopia, it is contradiction after contradiction. It is palm trees in the desert and, believe me, all of this is pretty goddamn hard to get right on the page. I have always called Lankford the most cynical man I know. Read this book and you may agree. But in reassessing this book now so many years after reading it the first time, I have to add that he may be the most honest writer I know. In this book he proves it. He captures in these pages the real L.A. He goes beyond the mirage to the dark heart that beats beneath it.
Let me spoil one paragraph by leaving you with this little cut from the book. Once again, Lankford says all that needs to be said.
We turned left on Hollywood Boulevard and I surveyed the ruins. Actually, it was hard to tell the difference from the way the Boulevard had looked before the quake. There was a little more yellow crime scene tape apparent, a few more broken windows dotted the landscape, and a couple of the buildings had been red tagged, but Hollywood Boulevard had been a disaster area for years.
So too, then, has been the larger, more mythical place called Hollywood. It’s now time for the expert guide’s private tour.
-- Michael Connelly