One of us, one of us, gibble gobble, one of us . . .
The wedding chant of those lovable circus freaks in the greatest horror
film of all time — that would be Tod Browning’s Freaks from 1932 — once
again welcomes you to the John Wooley website. This is the spring-summer 2004
edition, and while it’s the first update in several months (okay, since before
Halloween) it’s not, I’ll tell you right up front, particularly newsy.
I can’t tell you about any new books, for instance, except for the two which had just come out when I did the last update, Roscoes in the Night and Forgotten Horrors 3 (see below). The much-hyped (by me, anyway) Big Book of Biker Flicks has gone through some size and other changes, which caused delays, but it’s now on track for a Christmas season release. Please file that away for the time when you’re thinking about what to get for the easy riders on your Yuletide list. I’m also into the final draft of my first novel since Awash in the Blood (still in print and available for ordering via bookstores as well as online). It’s called Ghost Band, and it’s about music and ghosts, not necessarily in that order. It’s a pretty different book for me, too. HAWK should have it out in 2005.
So here’s the latest:
— Meanwhile, I’m getting a lot of email on Swing on This, the radio show I started last fall on Tulsa’s KWGS (89.5 FM). Interestingly enough, much of it is coming from places that can’t pick it up anywhere but on the Internet. You guys are obviously much smarter than I am when it comes to being hip to streaming — while I was writing that I thought you’d be able to pick it up but I wasn’t sure how, you were just cutting to the chase and getting it. So, thanks. And thanks for all the emails. If you email with a request, you’ll probably hear your name on the air with a dedication. That’s something I learned from the great Billy Parker, with whom I did a western-swing show on the legendary Tulsa station KVOO (home of Bob and Johnnie Lee Wills) for over a decade, before the hate-radio bomb-throwers took over and changed the call letters and pretty much everything else about the station. (Did I say “hate-radio bomb-throwers”? Maybe that’s too harsh. Naw, probably not.)
Anyway, in case you haven’t heard , it’s a full hour of western swing, cowboy jazz, hot string band music, or whatever else you want to call it, airing Saturday nights at 7 p.m., right between Prairie Home Companion and Riverwalk, Live from the Landing. KWGS is Tulsa’s NPR and PRI affiliate, which means there are no commercials and, really, no restrictions on what I can play. In the first couple of weeks of the program, I went from Bob Wills’ “Miss Molly” to Jethro Burns and Tiny Moore doing the jazz standard “Out of Nowhere,” with Eldon Shamblin and Shelley Manne in support. I’ve played all sorts of stuff since then, old and new, from Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies (another pioneering western-swing group, cut short by the death of its leader in the ’30s) and Billy Briggs’ XIT Boys to contemporary acts both familiar (Asleep at the Wheel, Red Steagall, Suzy Bogguss) and less so (Igor’s Jazz Cowboys, Diddy Wah Diddy).
I’m having a ball with the show, and I welcome your input on it. I pledge to answer every email, although I’m about a month behind at this point.
Those of you outside the Tulsa listening area can pick it up at 7 p.m. Central Time, right after Prairie Home Companion. Tune us in on the web at www.kwgs.org, and please tell your friends — at least the ones you think might be interested. I appreciate it very much.
— Good news on Roscoes in the Night, my latest pulp-story collection. At the recent Windy City Pulp and Paperback Convention in Chicago — a get-together of pulp, paperback and escapist-fiction fans that I highly recommend (see www.windycitypulpconvention.com for more) — I got some face time with its publisher, John Gunnison, who heads Adventure House, and he told me that Roscoes sold out its first printing and is now into a second. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the book, it’s a baker’s dozen of stories featuring the peerless Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective, written by the late Robert Leslie Bellem. Bellem penned the stories, which originally appeared from 1934 through 1950 in such pulp magazines as Hollywood Detective, Spicy Detective, Speed Detective and Private Detective; John and I edited the book and I wrote the 13-page intro, which includes rare material written by Bellem himself, little-known facts about the million-words-a-year fictioneer, and looks at the two movies featuring the character: Republic’s 1947 feature Blackmail, with William Marshall as Dan, and the 1990 made-for-TV film Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective, with Marc (Beastmaster, V) Singer in the title role. (I was lucky enough to write the script for the latter, continuing a long association I’ve had with the character.) There are lots of photos from both features as well, and reproductions of some mighty lurid pulp covers.
Just in case you haven’t encountered them, I should tell you that the Dan Turner stories are pretty much unlike anything you’ve ever read — whizzy, slangy, funny,outrageous, first-person adventures taking place in a Hollywood that never was. If he’s, say, on the grounds of a studio and someone shoots at him, he might tell it like this: “Behind me, a roscoe sneezed kachow! and a
lead pill split the ozone next to my noggin. I ankled the lot, my hip pockets dipping gravel.”
Adventure House also published my earlier pulp collection, At the Stroke of Midnight, which collects the atmospheric, absorbing adventures of cabbie Steve Midnight, “the hard-luck hacker,” by an extremely underrated writer named John K. Butler. It’s still available, along with a whole bunch of other pulp-related books, from www.adventurehouse.com. The books are also distributed to stores by Diamond Distributors, and Roscoes is carried by www.barnesandnoble.com
— Forgotten Horrors 3: Dr. Turner’s House of Horrors is the latest in the acclaimed series, a tribute to Michael H. Price’s longtime co-writer on the books, George Turner, the film-industry figure who passed away a couple of years ago. Following George’s death, Michael asked me to step in as collaborator on the books — and he didn’t have to ask twice. I’ve been a fan of Forgotten Horrors from the very beginning.
In case you haven’t seen them, the Forgotten Horrors books deal with movies from small-time and independent producers and studios, each volume breezily analyzing somewhere between 100 and 200 pictures — some fairly well known, some virtually unknown — that feature horrific elements. No. 3, for instance, covers the years 1943-46, and includes entries on the likes of Dead Men Walk, Nabonga, and Monogram’s Shadow films, as well as lesser-known features like Isle of Forgotten Sins, the weird Cisco Kid western Beauty and the Bandit and what may be both the strangest and most perfect Hollywood film of all time, How Doooo You Do!!!. I’m really proud to be a part of this series, and it’s typical of Michael that he took me on as a full partner with No. 3, even though he’d already done the lion”s share of the work on it.
For those of you who don’t know Mike Price, he’s the former senior movie critic for the Fort Worth Star Telegram whose work was syndicated by the
New York Times for years — but he’s also a true left-of-center Renaissance man: recording artist, songwriter, actor, comic-book and trading-card creator, and one of the best authorities in the world on the obscure and the unheralded in our popular culture.
— Also, check out our “Forgotten Horrors” column in Fangoria, America’s No. 1 horror media magazine. For Fango, we’re writing about movies that are a little newer and a more explicitly horrific, pictures made between the beginning of the Gore Era (1964) and the home-video era (1984); each column includes a brief interview with at least one person who helped make the picture. We’re getting good feedback and having great fun writing about pictures like Blood Freak, Rattlers, and Petey Wheatstraw, the Devil’s Son-in-Law.
Look for “Forgotten Horrors” out every month or so in the magazine or on the Fango website, www.fangoria.com, which not only occasionally runs one of the columns, but also lets you know which one is coming out next.
And, by the way, thanks to Tony Timpone and Mike Gingold — Fango’s editor and managing editor, respectively — not only for greenlighting our “Forgotten Horrors” idea, which is now somewhere around 18 installments, but also for running a recent review of Forgotten Horrors 3 by Tom Weaver, probably the No. 1 interviewer of classic horror and science-fiction personalities. We appreciate all three of you.
— Finally, you’ll note that this website’s special offer — for the film festival award-winning indie film Cafe Purgatory, which I co-wrote and co-produced — is still in effect. It may not be that special anymore, but it’s still listed because I’m trying to sell more copies. All money we get goes into an account, and when it gets big enough — we’re a little over halfway there — the actors and technicians, who all worked for deferred money, get paid.
No, you can’t take it as a tax deduction, but I think it’s worth 20 bucks. So does the legendary Tim Ferrante of Videoscope magazine, whose three-star review of in the spring 2002 issue said, among other things, “In the rough-and-tumble world of low-budget movies, seldom do we see filmmakers beat the overwhelming odds and produce something watchable. Amazingly, Cafe Purgatory managed to get enough of a toehold to keep me interested without once fast-forwarding. And that is one hell of an achievement!”
He goes on to compare it to the old TV show One Step Beyond (which, probably not surprisingly, was one of my favorites as a kid) , and then concludes with, “If you want to see how an invisible budget blends with intelligent writing and some pretty smart filmmaking, you need look no further than Cafe Purgatory.”
I know in these challenging times not a lot of us have an extra couple of frogskins threatening to burst into flame in our wallets, but I’d appreciate your considering an investment in a copy of Cafe Purgatory, especially if you’re into the unusual and the speculative, you wonder about faith and the afterlife — or you just want to see what the heroic young star of The Slime
People looks like 40 years later. Check it out in the “special offer” section of this website.
— Again and as always, many thanks for stopping by.