NOTES FROM ABOVE GROUND
By Honey van Blossom
(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)
Inyo County contains the Owens River Valley; it is between the Sierra Nevada and the White Mountains and the Inyo Mountains. Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the Continental United States, is on Inyo County’s western border. The Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, the lowest place in North America, is in eastern Inyo County. Owens Valley is the deepest valley on the American continents. The largest escarpment in the United States rises from the floor of Death Valley to the top of Telescope Peak in the Panamint Range.
This extraordinary geography provided the filming locations for Erich von Stroheim’s Greed, many Western films, Gunga Din (where the Alabama Hills substituted for the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan), two Star Trek movies and a couple of noir films, the best of which is Robert Mitchum’s Out of the Past (1947). Inyo County was one of the locations for a fake version of Charlie Chaplin’s life but Chaplin stars Robert Downey, Jr., which makes up for a lot that’s crummy about the movie.
The second significant conflict over water in the Owens Valley inspired Roman Polanski’s fiction film Chinatown (1974). No one made a movie about the first conflict: the driving of native people into Lake Owen and shooting them. Read more
A PDF ebook edition of Lionel Rolfe’s
“The Uncommon Friendship of Yaltah Menuhin and Willa Cather”
is currently available for $1 in the bookstore at americanlegends.
I surprised myself by how much the movie “Kill the Messenger” affected me. I hadn’t gone to it expecting that it would upset me. I wasn’t a close friend of Gary Webb, the journalist (pictured above) whose story the movie was based on. But I had made a couple of calls at his request, trying to get him a job. He was desperate after the San Jose Mercury News dropped him when he published his powerful series, “Dark Alliance.”
At the end of the ’60s, I did a stint as a police reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle–and then in 1981 Chronicle Books published my book Literary L.A. and in the mid-’90s I wrote a few op-ed columns for the paper.
I had knocked around with some of the best of the ’60s journalists in San Francisco. Most were deeply influenced by the counter culture. I hung out a bit with Warren Hinckle, editor of Rampart Magazine, he of the infamous eye patch. I dealt a few times with Bob Scheer, one of the bright spots of the Los Angeles Times during its days of glory under publisher Otis Chandler, and was much awed by his talents. I was proud to count Dave McQueen, who along with Scoop Nisker made KSAN radio the first of the “underground FM stations,” one of my good friends. KSAN never really was “underground”– it was owned by Metromedia, now long swallowed up in some other corporate behemoth. But I had partied with the likes of Janis Joplin because of my friendship with McQueen. Read more
BY DOUG WEISKOPF
I read an interesting review recently in The LA Times on the new movie, “Kill The Messenger”, with great interest, as it reminded me of a young man I met back in the late 1990’s who was a neighbor of mine (I used to take care of his dog while he was out of town, which always creates strong bonds with their owners). I knew he had been a Navy Seal who had abruptly chosen to leave the service and one evening over beers I asked him why he left.
The story I was told in answer to my casual question could have been the subject of a movie like “Messenger”. He said that he had been assigned as a machine gunner on a navy helicopter which flew a mission in Columbia to pick up a large load of cocaine from a local drug cartel. When the crew landed to unload the coke the officer in charge at the scene was none other than the infamous Oliver North, whom he described as an overly officious and unpleasant fellow. Read more
OPHELIA Rising by Umberto Tosi is a NEW NOVEL BY THE Author of Our Own Kind, which is running in this issue of Boryanabooks.
What if Ophelia had survived and lived to tell her story. That’s what this novel is about. This picaresque, historical novel is a lively re-imagining of the fair Ophelia’s life before and after Hamlet. In the novel’s alternative world, she hasn’t drowned after all. She was fished out downstream from where she fell by that those traveling players who – at Hamlet’s urging – had caught the conscience of the King Claudius, and now were fleeing his royal wrath fast as their carnival wagons could carry them out of Denmark.
Thus begins young Ophelia’s great adventure – a new life thrust upon her, while her mind and broken heart are on the mend – as player and fugitive, lover and warrior, mother and poet, seeker and survivor. Moving from town to town, across war torn, 16th century Europe with her performing troupe, she plays many roles and encounters a cast of vividly drawn characters, including some of the most powerful, audacious, Machiavellian, prophetic and creative figures of the late Renaissance – real and fictional. Inevitably, Ophelia crosses paths with Horatio – now the author of a book chronicling his late Prince Hamlet’s tragedy – and a diplomat and spy for the ruthless, newly crowned Norwegian-Danish King Fortinbras.
With a nod to the Bard, the Melancholy Dane’s ghost shows up as well, along with Barnardo, Marcellus and other characters from the play. Ophelia comes into herself in the liberating company of the players – particularly their two bickering principals, Isabella and Carlo. No nunnery for her. She struggles through adversity to find new loves, new passions and she fashions herself into someone to be reckoned with. Now she must decide which path her new life will take. Perils abound – bloody religious conflicts, assassinations, persecution, disease, palace plots, pirates. There are those who want her dead.
The novel is steeped in meticulously researched, authentic details conveying the events, look and feel of its period. One experiences the vistas, texture, smells, colors, customs, attitudes, fashions, foods, arts, politics, weaponry, rituals, beliefs and diversions of Ophelia’s times, particularly in the worlds of theater, the church, the emergent merchant class, printing, art and ruthless, all-powerful royal houses. The swiftly moving narrative remains consistent with Shakespeare’s tragedy throughout, flashing back to Ophelia’s motherless childhood, as well as weaving a credible story of the play’s aftermath. The ebook edition of “Ophelia Rising” will be published in November, 2014, followed by a print edition in the spring of 2015, by Light Fantastic Books.
By Bob Vickrey
A restless publishing conference crowd appeared slightly impatient as it awaited the arrival of acclaimed novelist Jerzy Kosinski for his scheduled luncheon speech at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. Kosinski was running noticeably late for an appearance that would officially launch his forthcoming book later that year.
When he finally arrived at the semi-annual Houghton Mifflin sales conference, he emerged visibly shaken, and was steadied by a company publicist. As he wiped his forehead with a handkerchief, he described an incident that had just happened on the sidewalk outside the hotel entrance. Kosinski said a plate glass window which was being installed in a nearby office tower had fallen and barely missed hitting him as it shattered on the concrete sidewalk directly in his path to the hotel.
When he composed himself and began his prepared remarks, he told the story of another potentially fatal event which happened to him in 1969. He was on the way to Los Angeles from Paris to visit his friend and fellow Polish countryman Roman Polanski, but during his New York stop-over, he discovered his baggage had been lost in route. The overnight delay in New York ultimately prevented Kosinski from accompanying Polanski to actress Sharon Tate’s house the night she was murdered by the Charles Manson followers. Read more
(Copyright c 2014 by Umberto Tosi)
5. WAR AS A WAY OF LIFE
Six weeks later, just as things seemed to settle down, Sid phones and tells Ben that Lori is back in L.A., like nothing happened.
“News to me.” Ben tries to sound nonchalant. He hadn’t heard anything from Lori, nor had she phoned the girls. “It’s like we severed diplomatic relations, seeing as we’re at war.”
Ben hears Sid’s secretary say something in the background. Then Sid cups the phone and all Ben hears are muffled sounds.
“Sorry about that.” Sid is back. “Listen. Now her counsel claims that your ex is fit as a fiddle. He’s accusing you of stealing the kids.”
“… But you told me…”
“Hey. Don’t worry about it kid. We’re on legal ground here.”
“Yeah. And there are no earthquakes in California”
“Her attorney is just trying to make a case so they can bargain.”
“What about her mental illness. She’s been in a psych ward for weeks. Can’t we show that?”
They’re claiming that she was just recovering from exhaustion.”
“I wish. You know that’s not true. What about the hospital records?”
“That’s just it. We would need a court order to get them. Patient privacy and all that.”
“So? Get one.”
“Not that easy. But we can threaten to get one as a bargaining chip.”
“Franz Kafka could have done something terrific with this. Me? I’m not so sure.”
“They’re demanding that you bring the kids back to her forthwith.”
“Just like that? Ping-pong with children? I don’t even know where she’s living now, or what condition things are in. Her old apartment was a sty. Pure chaos. Beer cans and cigarette butts: early saloon décor.” Read more
EXIT FROM EDEN: The Author During The Times She’s Writing About
El Quijote restaurant was right next door to the Chelsea Hotel. I’d been told it was a well established joint with chandeliers, exotic wall hangings and moderately priced Spanish cuisine. So I checked out the menu and ordered seafood paella with a pitcher of white Sangria, figuring such a feast would fortify me through the night and into the next morning for my meeting with porn king Harvey Jewell and his mafia distributors.
“Make that two pitchers of Sangria,” I told the solemn Spanish waiter, who was decked out in a black jacket. I brazenly pinched his cheek. He scurried away, muttering, “Si si, Senorita.”
A swarthy man in blue jeans and a turtle neck sweater raised his glass in salute from his place at the crowded bar. I could barely make out his features from my booth. But when I nodded to acknowledge his greeting, he came over to me still holding his drink. He was about 40, with high cheekbones and a full head of black tousled hair streaked with white around the temples.
“I’ve seen you at the hotel near those creaky elevators,” he said. “I’m Peter Gasolini, and I know where most of the bodies are buried at the Chelsea.” He paused and smiled at me as if we shared a secret joke. “Between you and me, I think the corpses are down in the basement with all the old furniture. Chairs and sofas with torn cushions are lying around like broken dreams.” Read more