The System Has Failed…

It’s been a whirlwind of a series of days, hasn’t it?

The Covid-19 situation is clearly still on everyone’s mind but the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police, every heartbreaking and disgusting moment of it caught on camera, has opened a wound that, along with the pandemic we’re facing, has caused an eruption in anger and protests.

Over the weekend and around these parts, we had a couple of cars -one a police car- set on fire and some looting. Nothing as big as what happened in other parts of the country but worrisome nonetheless.

Because, sadly, one sometimes focuses on the destruction rather than the causes of it.

It is perfectly fine to be horrified by what those four police officers did to George Floyd. It is perfectly fine to believe that not all police officers are as barbaric as those four. It is perfectly fine to want a top to bottom revision and changes to the police forces, to demand they be held more accountable so that what happened to George Floyd, and any other people (of color or otherwise) never experience anything like this again.

They shouldn’t have in the first place.

Further, its perfectly fine to protest for these changes.

Perfectly fine.

Do it in large masses. Be loud. Make yourselves heard.

But please, don’t destroy property. Don’t loot.

I know reports indicate some of the looters may well have been provocateurs. People who don’t care about the protests and are simply taking advantage of the situation to instigate anarchy and/or steal whatever they can get their hands on.

I know they represent a small part of the protesters as I hope those who murdered George Floyd represent only a small part of the Police Force.

What makes me happy is reading reports on protesters who turn in looters and/or stop them. Also, it makes me happy to see Police Officers talking to protesters, expressing sympathy and, in some cases, joining in with them. It makes me happy to see protesters giving police water. It makes me happy seeing some officers kneeling to show a solidarity with protesters.

This is what will bring us together.

Kindness.

Empathy.

We can do this together.

The system failed, but it can be repaired.

Unfortunately, what makes me incredibly unhappy -surprise, surprise- is our “President” and his reaction. Yesterday, in particular, was -stop me if you’ve heard this before- yet another new low for him.

As reported by Stephen Collinson and presented on CNN.com…

Trump responds to protests with a strongman act

What exactly did “President” Trump do? As Mr. Collinson put it:

Trump on Monday turned security forces on peaceful protesters in front of the White House, as tear gas and rubber bullets flewbefore declaring himself the “law and order” President. Then, in one of the most bizarre moments in modern presidential history, he strode across the park to stand in front of an iconic church holding a Bible aloft in a striking photo op.

Oh my.

Our “President” essentially cleared out -with heavy handed methods- those protesting in front of the White House just so he could go in front of a closed up church, hold a bible in his hand, and take photos of himself with it.

I mean, how do you go about describing what’s wrong with that? How does one even start? Trump, a man who has about as much religious conviction as your average jar of mayonnaise, tries to show himself off as a strong man on the one hand and a religious person on the other… of which he just proved he’s neither.

The Bishop of the Church he allowed himself to be photographed in front of, by the way, was aghast at his stunt…

I’ll let Mr. Collison continue:

It was a moment of vanity and bravado — orchestrated for the cameras and transparently political — as Trump struggles to cope with protests sweeping the country after the killing of  George Floyd and tries to cover up his botched leadership during the coronavirus pandemic.

At this point, one shouldn’t be surprised by the lows “President” Trump will go to. It seems like each day, each hour, each minute he finds a new way to go lower than before.

What is wrong with this man?

What on earth could he possibly be thinking?

Incredible.

Simply incredible.

Tesla Auto-Pilot Failure…?

Yesterday a story regarding a possible Tesla Autopilot failure was making the rounds. Here’s one article about it, written by Jason Torchinsky and presented on jalopnik.com:

Tesla Model 3 drives straight into overturned truck in what seems to be Autopilot failure

Here is a news report about the accident, presented on Taiwan’s news (the accident occurred there).

Mr. Torchinsky, in the article linked to above, makes the following statement:

Tesla’s Autopilot system primarily uses cameras for its Autopilot system, and previous wrecks have suggested that situations like this, a light-colored large immobile object on the road on a bright day can be hard for the system to distinguish.

This is very much true and reminds me of a similar incident which happened to a Tesla fanatic whose car, on Autopilot, plowed into a truck towing a trailer. The accident occurred in 2019 and the driver was killed.

Tesla Model 3: Autopilot engaged during fatal crash

If you’ve read my ramblings here, you should know that I own a Tesla Model 3. You should also know that I absolutely love the car to death and, yes, I have used the Autopilot quite a bit, especially when on long highway trips.

I find the Autopilot a great driving aid.

Yet I never let my guard down and am always focused on what’s going on in front of me when using the device.

There are those who criticize Elon Musk and Tesla because they’ve been playing fast and loose with the whole “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving” terminology.

The two are very different things and you need to understand what each is.

Full Self-Driving is a theoretical idea so far and not a reality. That you can get into your car, in your driveway, and instruct it to take you to, say, your work. The car does everything from that point on, backing your car out of your driveway, moving from street to street and stopping at traffic lights/stop signs, moving from regular streets to highways then back to regular streets and dropping you off at your destination.

No, that doesn’t exist yet, though Tesla and several other companies are working hard to make it.

Autopilot, on the other hand, is like an advanced version of Cruise Control and it does exist in Tesla vehicles.

In Autopilot, the car “sees” what is in front and around it and adjusts the driving for you, slowing down when cars are stopped before you and speeding up to the velocity you have specified for it to go at a maximum. However, it doesn’t take you to locations and, once off a highway, it will disengage.

I tend to use Autopilot only in situations where the car is driving mostly “straight”. Yes, Autopilot can take curves -and has done so- but in city driving Autopilot will not take you from your home all the way to your job. In the version I have (there have been advances since then and I’m still waiting to get my updates central processor) it does not see traffic lights or stop signs.

Autopilot is an aide to be used for mostly straight forward driving and nothing more.

In the case of the accident presented above and the fatal accident from 2019, both cases highlight a problem that Tesla’s Autopilot has and which the company needs to address: The Autopilot system seems to sometimes get confused when a stationary large object, especially if it is white, is directly in front of your car and on a straightaway.

The accident in Taiwan and the fatal accident from 2019 had the same general elements: A Model 3 was indeed moving on a straight highway/road and in front of it appeared a large white object, be it a trailer or overturned truck. In both cases, the Autopilot feature did not detect the fact that they were there.

Having said that…

It appears these two accidents are the only ones thus far which have happened under these circumstances. The loss of life in the earlier accident is a tragedy but some 90 people die in automotive accidents every day.

The fact that we have 2 accidents -one non-fatal- involving this Autopilot technology in a span of some 2 years (2019 and 2020, thus far) indicates this is a situation that occurs incredibly infrequently.

Still, Tesla should get on top of this situation, infrequent as it may be.

Corrosive Knights, a 6/1/20 Update

It’s been roughly two weeks since my last update (you can read it here) regarding Book #8 in the Corrosive Knights series…

In that time, I’ve done a read-through and pen/ink revision of the book and today have turned to putting all my notes/changes/corrections into the Word copy I have.

There are quite a few things to fix!

Having said that, most of it is grammatical/spelling/ease of reading type corrections. That’s not to say, though, that the story is “locked in” yet.

There were also a few parts that required some reworking and/or expansion along with those simpler to fix clarifications.

Having said that (redux), I’m very happy with the overall place I’m at with this novel. I strongly suspect once I’ve put those corrections into the book, I’ll be very near the end of this work.

Like, really near.

And we’re on Draft #4 here and for my last several books, I’ve had to go through 12 Drafts before feeling these books were ready to be released!

I don’t want to get too ahead of myself because you never know how things will work out. Perhaps when I’m done with putting these revisions into the computer and I’m starting up Draft #5 I may find some really big problems that need to be addressed and they may require even more work to fix.

It’s certainly possible… but not super likely.

No, I’m happy with what I’ve written to date. I feel I’ve created a damn good story to follow up Legacy of the Argus. While it isn’t the promised “Epilogue” story, I feel it is a pretty damn strong story set in the Corrosive Knights universe which will, hopefully, be a great standalone story for anyone who wanders into my works and picks it up without reading the others but will also feeding the mythology I’ve built and be a satisfying addition to the saga for those who have read the other books.

I’m once again in a familiar position: Eager to get these revisions finished up as quickly as I can and excited by the prospect of getting that much closer to actually releasing a new book.

It’s a good one and I can’t wait to see what everyone out there thinks of it!

Curtain (1975) a (very) Belated Review

Published in 1975, Agatha Christie’s Curtain, featuring the last case of her most famous creation, Hercule Poirot, is a novel that I’ve read before and, to this day and after reading it again (perhaps for the third or so time), bewilders, amuses, amazes, and frustrates me, almost all in equal measure.

Curtain (Hercule Poirot, #42) by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie wrote the book in the early 1940’s and while World War II was raging. She feared she wouldn’t make it through the war and decided to create a final tale for Hercule Poirot and put it in a lock box with the intention of having her heirs release it at some future date.

Of course, Agatha Christie survived the war and continued writing until her death in 1976 and, shortly before passing away, she authorized the release of Curtain, which wound up being the final book released while she was still alive (there was another book, Sleeping Murder, which was her last written work and which was released posthumously).

Intriguingly, I’ve read the there was no attempt to revise the novel and it was released as Mrs. Christie wrote it back in the early 1940’s, even though its actual first publication was some thirty five years later.

In this novel, we’re witnessing an elderly, frail Hercule Poirot, bedridden yet anxious to solve one last crime involving a mysterious man or woman he calls “X”, who may well be the most nefarious criminal he’s ever tangled with: The wo/man has had a hand in at least 5 different murders yet somehow is never suspected and, further, in all cases others are very clearly the murderer.

Yet, Poirot insists to his companion/Watson/narrator Arthur Hastings, this “X” is clearly the puppet master and the one who caused the murders… and is about to commit another.

The story takes place in Styles Court, the same location Agatha Christie’s first novel (and first Poirot novel) The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) took place.

Thus the proverbial circle closes, with our Belgian detective and his right hand man, now some 25 years or so later, come together one last time to solve one last mystery.

Agatha Christie would write several Poirot novels after Curtain and, while this novel does make mention of previous books/mysteries Poirot was involved in, there are no mention of the novels that came afterwards. Further, Christie, no doubt realizing the novel would be released in some unknown future date, kept any real world events/technologies to a minimum. We get no descriptions of vehicles, for example, and the entire story takes place in its one setting, isolated from any other locations.

I said above that the novel bewilders, amuses, amazes, and frustrates me and I mean what I said.

The story itself is somewhat typical Agatha Christie: Once again we have a clever murder story which (as is typical of Mrs. Christie), the murderer is the person the reader least suspects.

Mrs. Christie made a literal king’s fortune out of her ability to present her story, then build up our suspicions on this character or that, sometimes hitting us with red herrings, before often shocking us with the surprising murderer.

This is very much the case in Curtain!

But the novel frustrates me at times, too. The plot, once all is said and done, is almost too clever for its own good. Both Poirot and our “X” are engaging in such a high level game of chess that can only exist in a novel and not in real life.

This is a common complaint, by the way, I have of Agatha Christie’s stories: If you take a cold look at the plot, you realize there are so many things that have to fall into place for the story to work that its an impossibility.

However…

The books are so damn well written and Curtain is yet another example of Agatha Christie’s incredible talents.

The book itself, compared to some tomes (looking at you, Stephen King) wastes no time getting going and has almost no fat at all to wade through. Each word, sentence, paragraph, and page present something interesting for the reader to read, and you’re so involved in the book you don’t notice some of the absurdities until well after you’ve come to the wrapup.

Interestingly, Agatha Christie chose to end the novel not unlike (you’re not going to believe this in a million years) And Then There Were None. If you’ve been reading my ramblings for the past few weeks, I’ve noted how I’ve been in a weird And Then There Were None temporal/spatial trap (read all about it starting here, continuing here, surprising me here, and then ending with my review of the famous novel here!).

Thinking about it some more, Curtain is in many ways very much like And Then There Were None, though to get into the details involves considerable spoilers (I’ll do that below).

If you’ve already read both novels, then by all means read what comes below but, if you haven’t and are curious to read these books, please DO NOT READ WHAT COMES AFTER THE SPOILER WARNING.

In sum, Curtain is another grade “A” Agatha Christie novel, slim and to the point yet entertaining as hell even as the story told is at times rather preposterous.

Highly recommended.

Now then…

SPOILERS FOLLOW!

I’M SERIOUS!

*****

STILL THERE???

*****

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!

*****

Let me start with the differences and then I’ll get to the similarities between And Then There Were None, what many consider Agatha Christie’s best novel (I can’t say I disagree!) and Curtain.

And Then There Were None involves a group of 10 people called to a secluded island under false pretenses who realize they’re trapped and accused of murder. In the course of the book, one after the other is in turned killed and those who remain become suspicious of each other, thinking they could be the murderer.

In Curtain, we have a group of 13 people at Styles Court -not trapped- who are enjoying their country vacation (or working, in the case of a few of them) with Poirot aware that one of them is a mastermind murderer targeting the others.

In And Then There Were None, the reader suspects everyone even as they do as well. We have a couple of semi-clear protagonists, but with each murderer, anxiety and suspense rise.

In Curtain, we have, in the end, “only” 3 deaths, two of which are considered by everyone but Hastings and Poirot suicide and the last which is Hercule Poirot’s death… which may well have been by natural causes.

And Then There Were None has all the murders being obviously that. In Curtain, the deaths are obviously more devious.

Those are the differences.

Now the similarities:

In both And Then There Were None and Curtain, we’re dealing with a master manipulator/murderer. Both novels feature masterminds and, in the end of And Then There Were None, the murderer is indeed the one we “least suspect” (a trademark of Agatha Christie) because it is someone we thought already dead.

In Curtain, there are two killers: our Mister (as I said, SPOILERS) “X” and… Hercule Poirot himself.

Mister X tries, as we find out in the end of the novel, to kill three different people. He’s thwarted, we find in the end, by one of the manipulated people missing his shot (or perhaps sanity prevailed before the murderous impulse was let loose), while in another Poirot defused the situation. In the third case, one of the cast of characters is indeed murdered but it was because of confusion on the part of others, and this character’s death is labeled a suicide in the end.

The final murder is that of Mister X, and that death is also ruled a suicide because it is in a locked room with no possibility of anyone else having done it…

…which, of course, turns out not to be the case. For the “invalid” Hercule Poirot, with no way to stop this mastermind killer, created the illusion to others that he was a total invalid and confronted Mister X, drugged him to sleep, then put him in his room, shot him in the forehead, left the man’s door key in his pocket, and with a duplicate key, locked the door from the outside and returned to his room.

Everyone thought Mister X killed himself and Poirot himself is found dead the next day of natural causes. Or, perhaps, he purposely didn’t take his heart medication, knowing this would end his life after he -the one person we least suspected of murder- actually committed the murder.

Like And Then There Were None, Curtain ends with our murderer (in this case Poirot), writing a declaration of everything that happened and explaining what he did in the story. He, like the killer in And Then There Were None, is dead and this is his declaration and explanation.

The only reason this exists, by the way, is to give readers a resolution of the story. For if either book didn’t have these declarations, they would be left in the dark as to what exactly happened.

It’s not unusual for authors to reuse certain concepts and when you write as prolifically as Mrs. Christie did, its bound to happen.

Still, it was interesting to see her using the “written last testament” ideal found in And Then There Were None used again in Curtain to give us this finality to the story.

Toxic Fandom: Justice League, Star Wars, etc. etc. …

So yesterday I posted about the news, released several days ago, that Warner Brothers decided to allow director Zack Snyder the opportunity to complete his version of Justice League for release next year on HBOMax, the new streaming service which I can all but guarantee you will see a big bump in clientele thanks to this news.

In the end, folks, its about money, and releasing the so-called Snyder Cut of Justice League will most certainly bring in people.

However, the release of this news has provoked a few to take a look at what they call the “toxic” nature of fandom.

Over at Vanityfair.com, Joanna Robinson explores this topic in particular in this fascinating article:

Is releasing the Snyder Cut of Justice League a victory for Toxic Fandoms?

As someone who is a fan of Batman v. Superman and am quite curious to see Snyder’s version of Justice League, I nonetheless am intrigued with the notion of “toxic” fandom.

Though I’m interested in seeing Justice League, I’m far from a Snyder “Uber” fan. I’ve seen a grand total of two of his films to date: Dawn of the Dead and Batman v. Superman. I’m very aware of his other films yet the most I’ve seen of his other works is maybe 20 or so of the last minutes of Man of Steel that I caught while it was airing on TV and perhaps 10 or so minutes (Probably something in the middle of the film) of 300 when it was also on TV.

Having said that, I’m well aware of some of the more toxic fandom out there but, having said that, it is on both sides.

The Vanityfair.com article points out that there are some Snyder fans who were very nasty online and the author is right: There are some really toxic elements out there who were proponents of the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League.

But let us be fair: There were also a vast swath of very toxic anti-Snyder elements out there who already poisoned the well against Snyder and his works from before BvS was released. There were many who felt Snyder “didn’t get” Superman at all, and that his Man of Steel was terrible and his portrayal of Superman as willing to kill -he does so in the movie’s climax- was very much off character. These same anti-Snyder elements were already geared up and lambasting BvS well before it was actually released.

Once the movie was released, I distinctly recall the uproar -some of which follows to today!- lambasting the film and all things Snyder… as if he were some asshole that ran over their beloved pet.

It was because of this that Snyder and Warners tried to make peace with these people -and critics- when Justice League was being made and they were invited to see the movie in process and see clips from it.

And the darkest elements of this toxic fandom openly were happy when Snyder left Justice League… even though he did so because his adopted daughter committed suicide.

Not everyone was like that.

Thankfully!

I recall one person online (don’t know his/her real name) who was about anti-Snyder and his works as you could get, but when the news came out that he was dropping out of the Justice League movie because of his daughter’s suicide, he had nothing but sympathy to offer the director. His opinion of Snyder’s films didn’t change, but he wished him the best in what was surely a very difficult time.

I’ve been around for an awful long time now and have seen so many incarnations and adaptations of these characters that, frankly, it doesn’t bother me to see a Zack Snyder “take” on Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman. Hell, I’ve seen enough bad versions of the characters over time that I feel its something of a waste of time getting to up in arms about them.

Much as I love the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve Superman movie (Indeed, it remains my all time favorite superhero film of all time!), what followed simply wasn’t as good… and some of the later stuff was downright terrible.

I like Superman II, both the theatrical cut and the “Donner Cut”, but as time goes by I realize the film is much more flawed than first impressions made me feel. I sometimes wonder whether Donner, had he not been fired, would have made Superman II as good as the first. I feel, unfortunately, that Superman was lightning-in-a-bottle good. I feel that even if Donner had completed Superman II, it would never have been quite as good as the first… at least IMHO.

Then came Superman III and IV, both of which I consider total failures. In fact, I consider Superman IV, which was co-written by Christopher Reeve himself, the series’s nadir, a film so godawful its tough to watch period.

But, much as I dislike Superman IV, I can’t “hate” on the talents involved in the production. It didn’t work, for me, at all, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Those that love Snyder’s works love his works. Those that hate them hate them.

But to get so involved in some of the darker online nastiness seems a spectacular waste of time.

I’m glad, personally, that enough fans -those with kinder intentions- did get Warners to agree to finish up Snyder’s version of Justice League but let’s be clear here: They did this because they realized there was money to be made and, because of the HBOMax service, it was a perfect way to present the movie and build interest/sell that product.

It’s a win-win situation for Warners: They get to look like the good guy to those who want to see this version of the film (like me) and they also get to bring in clients for their HBOMax.

Over at Disney, they have faced similar fan/audience reactions with their Star Wars films, especially the new trilogy. There were plenty of people who had a nasty reaction to The Last Jedi and some of the misogyny was startling. So too was the case with the all-female remake of Ghostbusters.

This is entertainment, folks. If it doesn’t work for you, instead of wasting energy hurling invectives, maybe look for something else out there you’ll like instead.

There are plenty of good books, films, and TV shows to wile away your time with.

And if you’re going to ask for a “director’s” cut of any film, do so like the better elements of the Snyder’s Cut folks did: Press but don’t be thoroughly obnoxious about it (though some of them were over the line) and use your online presence for other goods, as well. The Snyder Cut petition served as a way to collect funds for anti-suicide groups, and even those who hate Snyder’s works the most have to acknowledge at least in that respect something good came out of it.

Right?

Zack Snyder’s Justice League… a Go!

Hard to believe its been three years since the release of Justice League in 2017.

The film, a direct sequel to director Zack Snyder’s controversial Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) was, to say the least, fraught in controversy.

Many people went ballistic at the release of BvS, feeling Zack Snyder’s vision of both Batman and Superman were wrong. Batman and Superman kill!, many lamented, though the characters had done so in previous movies (and, in the case of TV shows, Superman did indeed do so) without much of a shrug.

I suppose it was the way it was presented which people didn’t like. Superman shouldn’t be so dark and grim. Batman shouldn’t be nearly psychotic.

I’ve made my opinion of the film pretty clear over time: I happen to very much love BvS, though I would quickly add its the Extended Cut of the film that I would recommend anyone interested in seeing the film watch rather than the truncated, cut up Theatrical Cut which Warners (I strongly suspect) forced into being released.

Regardless, there were plenty of people who were not eager to see Mr. Snyder return to the characters. Warners was understandably nervous: They were putting in big money to make the Justice League film and the last thing they wanted was for the fans to (ahem) murder the product via the internet before it was released.

So there was a meet and greet arranged during the making of the film for fans and journalists to see what was in the works, along with some early footage. Mr. Snyder wanted to show the film would be -I suppose- lighter in tone than the more grim BvS.

It seemed to work, too, as the general feeling seemed to be positive about the film’s tone and direction this time around.

Then, tragedy. Zack Snyder’s adopted daughter committed suicide and, as Mr. Snyder was about to do some re-shoots, he dropped out of the project to grieve. Warners wound up hiring Josh Whedon, best known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the first two Avengers films, to come in and “complete” the project.

The inference was that he would do a little bit of work here and there, but when JL was finally released to theaters, audiences -and those who were fans of Mr. Snyder’s DC work- knew this film was about as far from a Snyder film as was possible. The tone was far more “comic”, the threats far less… threatening.

While I personally didn’t hate the film, I felt that it was almost like a 1970s cartoon version of the Justice League. It seemed like it was created to not offend, to not be dark at all. To give audiences a few chuckles and, hopefully, a few thrills. Batman was no longer dark and dangerous… he was essentially the butt of jokes. There were a lot of jokes, some of which were quite good but there was almost no sense of danger and little sense of suspense.

The film, IMHO, was a Frankenstein’s monster: Neither Snyder’s nor Whedon’s. I can’t get upset by Whedon’s work as I’m quite certain he did what the studio told him to do and he was likely very rushed all the way. The movie was scheduled to be released at a certain date and despite the tragedy involving Mr. Snyder, Warners was determined to release the film on the originally scheduled release date.

The film didn’t do terribly well at the box office, especially considering the fact that this was the first film to feature so many DC heroes all together.

However, almost immediately those who were fans of BvS suspected there was an alternate cut out there, a Snyder Cut of the film, and they wanted to see it.

There were those who scoffed at that notion, too. Whatever Snyder did, it was likely so incomplete that there was no way a full feature film could be made of it. There were those who didn’t care one way or another: They were more than happy to never see Snyder’s work on any more DC heroes.

Me?

I suspected there was enough material out there for a “Snyder Cut” of the film to be made. After all, director Richard Donner was fired from Superman II having only completed some 60% of that film by his own admission, yet they were able to cobble enough material together to release the “Donner Cut” of Superman II.

All indications were that Snyder had finished all principle photography of Justice League and was only intent on finishing a few extra reshoots before he left the project.

So, already it seemed like there was more of a “complete” Justice League out there versus the Donner Cut of Superman II.

But…

It further seemed to be the case that the film likely needed extensive special effect work, and that meant plenty of money to invest in the project, something it seemed Warners might be unlikely to consider.

The fans of Mr. Snyder, to their credit, began a movement which, today, seems to have born fruit: They have tweeted and posted (and raised funds for suicide prevention charities) to finally get the people at Warners interested in revisiting Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Borys Kit at The Hollywood Reporter offers this intriguing article concerning the announcement made some three or so days ago that the Zack Snyder version of Justice League will be released via HBO Max next year, though the format is yet to be determined, and that Warners has given Mr. Snyder a budget between 20 and 30 million to finish it up:

Zack Snyder’s 20 Million Plus Justice League Cut Plans Revealed

Considering how much I liked BvS, I’m certainly on the side interested in seeing Mr. Snyder’s version of the film.

However, I’m also a realist.

It could be… not all that good. Hell, it could wind up being something fairly mediocre or worse, and all that fan effort and devotion might mean we will get to see a so-so film.

However, it is also quite possible we get something in line with BvS. I know some people shudder at that possibility, but, as I said before, I liked the film and if this work is like it, I suspect I will be happy with what is eventually released.

As with so many things, we will see!

Corrosive Knights, A 5/19/20 Update

Quick update (my last one was from 5/13/10 and can be read here) for Book #8 in the Corrosive Knights series…

I printed the book out last week and started the process of reading and revising it.

Unlike the previous draft, this time around I wanted to do my revisions on the printed out book versus doing them directly on the computer (ie, using Word).

Does it make a difference?

For me, the answer is yes.

I don’t know why but when I have a physical copy of a novel before me, versus looking at the same thing on a computer screen, I seem to have access to/a clearer view of the novel and its story in its entirety.

While last time I went ahead and did the revisions completely on the computer, the fact of the matter is it was an experiment on my part and the first time I did a “full” revision that way versus printing out everything and revision with pen and then putting the revisions in the computer.

While I do believe the previous (all computer) draft moved the proverbial football forward, the experiment, I feel in retrospect, wasn’t a total success and I should stick with my preference of printing out the work and doing the revisions on the printed pages.

Please note: This is my preference and I’m certain other authors have theirs but for me, I will continue to print the whole thing out and revise the work that way from here on in.

Having said all that, let us get to the good stuff!

My update for today is: I’m just a tiny bit shy of halfway through the book and while there are things I need to fix up, at least for this half of the book, I seem to be moving into the grammatical/spelling area versus the active creative writing.

This is significant -and pardon me if I’m repeating myself as I am certain I have written about this before with previous books- because when I’m happy with the story as written and feel there is not much more to add, things tend to move quickly once I am in the grammatical/spelling focus. Indeed, when my sole preoccupation is to make the story read well versus coming up with new scenarios/story ideas , things move much more quickly to their end.

Having said all that, a word of caution: I am just shy of 1/2 way through the book. There is quite a bit of story still in front of me and we will see how that plays out and whether that half requires more creative writing than the first half.

Having said all that (redux), I still feel I’m ahead of schedule with regard to finishing this novel versus previous works.

While there were several false starts early on which cost me many months of work (ouch), once I found my direction it seemed like things fell into place a lot easier than they have with other novels.

It could be a sign of my growth as a writer or it could be that this time around I “got lucky” in that the plot worked itself out easier than before.

Either way, I remain optimistic this novel can be finished up in/around the end of Summer.

As soon as it is, I will let you know!

Corrosive Knights, a 5/13/20 Update

On April the 14th, 2020, I printed out the latest copy of my latest Corrosive Knights novel, Book #8…

Last time I wrote an update about this book (you can read it here) it was April 29th and I was roughly 1/2 way through the revision process and…

…I was feeling a bit down.

Frankly, I was a little disappointed by the progress of the 3rd Draft revision and the realization of how much I still had to “fix” or “rewrite” before finishing up that draft.

Sometimes, the amount of work you have to still do gets to you.

Especially when what you thought would be a quick turnaround becomes longer and more involved. When there’s that much more work involved, it has a way of wearing you down.

However…

Just as one has their good and bad days, so too do I have my ups and downs with the writing process.

Today, I put the finishing touches on Draft #3 of Book #8 and… I’m really happy with what I’ve got here.

Yeah, it turned out I had to put in extra efforts and some things I thought were damn good/didn’t need much work did, but as I sit here today after finishing writing what is effectively a new Epilogue to the book (and a much shorter one, to boot), and as I look back in my rear view mirror at the work I’ve put into this book and where it stands today versus in mid-April…

Things are looking pretty damn good.

I like what I have and what I have, I feel, is really close to being done.

I’ve mentioned it before: On average I’ve found myself going through 12 Drafts with my latest batch of novels. A strange number, I grant you, and it seemed that was the amount -not 11, not 13- that needed to be done before my books were “ready” to be released.

Even as I started up the 3rd draft of this current novel, I felt like it was closer to being complete than those other novels. Much, much closer given the fact that we were so early into the revision process.

I even mused in previous posts that maybe this book would take only 5 or so drafts before it was ready. A remarkable turnaround from 12!

Welp…

still feel like I won’t be needing 12 drafts to complete this book. In fact, I’m confident enough to say that I won’t need anywhere near that amount.

However, I’m not so sure 5 drafts will do it either.

Tomorrow I plan to print out the current draft and begin the process of reading and revising it and thus starting Draft #4 of the book. When I’m done with this draft, I’ll be, I feel, damn close to finishing up this novel.

At the very least, the book will be that much closer to complete.

However, I think I’ll need at least 2 or 3 more drafts after this next one, which means that if I’m now on #4, we’re looking at finishing up with Draft #6 or 7, and there is obviously no guarantee things might drag a little beyond that, too.

Having said that, each new draft should take me less and less time to finish up and whether I’m done with Draft #6, 7, or (baring any problems I find along that way) #8 or above, there is a good chance I may be finished with this novel by the end of Summer.

We’re obviously still a long way from there and my next update, when I’m finished -or near finished- with Draft #4 should give me an even clearer idea of where I stand.

But finishing up this book by the end of Summer?

Man, I hope so…!

Regardless, I’ll keep you updated!

And Then There Were None (1939) A (Mysteriously) Belated Review

As I’ve said before, it seems I’m on a And Then There Were None trip of late, what with seeing the 2015 mini-series based on the novel (my review is here), then seeing the comedic take on the book via the 1985 film Clue (you can read my review of it here), and finally seeing the 1968 western film 5 Card Stud, which was clearly influenced by the book (you can read my review of that here).

So I figured why not conclude this trip by re-reading and reviewing Agatha Christie’s original 1939 novel?

I mentioned it before and I’ll repeat myself: In Agatha Christie’s very long -and incredibly successful- career as a mystery writer, there are two novels that many consider her best: The Hercule Poirot mystery Murder on the Orient Express and the novel we’re focused on, And Then There Were None.

Re-reading the novel (I’ve read it at least twice before), I again marvel at the concise nature of it.

Author Elmore Leonard famously wrote a fascinating list of 10 things an author should/shouldn’t do (you can read the full list here) that concluded with this piece of advice:

Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip

Looking at this piece of advice, it sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Yet it may be one of the hardest things an author can do.

Why?

It involves looking at your baby, your lovely work, and realizing you need to cut it down, that the brilliant description you made of a home and its sparkling marble floor simply doesn’t need to be in your novel and does nothing more than slow a reader down. There could be any number of wonderful (to you) bits and pieces of prose and passages you’ve spent way too much time writing about which you have to come back to and realize they need to be cut and never to see the light of day.

There are plenty of authors I’ve read who simply couldn’t do this.

They may have pages upon pages of at times flowery -even beautiful!- descriptive passages that simply do not move the novel forward.

I’m certain I’ve done this as well in some of my books, but in the process of doing revisions I genuinely try to cut things to the bone and leave behind -as Mr. Leonard put it- the parts readers will read versus those they will want to skip and which -despite my best efforts- drag the book down.

And Then There Were None is a beautiful example of a stripped down novel that moves along quickly and never lags. It is a relatively brief work yet within its pages one gets a wonderful taste of 10 disparate characters who are invited -under false pretenses- to a distant island where they stand accused of various murders and are then themselves killed one after the other.

The great suspense is not only in the fact that these people realize they’re being hunted, but in the further realization that one of their own is the killer.

So the characters suspect each other of being a mad killer while, paradoxically, they’re forced to keep each other as close to them as possible… for each time someone is alone, the odds are good they will be dead.

It’s a brilliant scenario that has clearly influenced a lot of other works, including various adaptations for the screen. I also understand it was the most difficult novel for Mrs. Christie to write and I can certainly see why: Having that many characters running around and figuring out ways to off them which are logical to the novel’s end is not an easy thing to do, especially when the book is written in such a beautifully stripped down way.

Having said that, let’s be honest with each other: The novel’s plot is preposterous.

While Mrs. Christie does her best to give explanations to all the various details presented, including the murderer’s motivation and the way in which s/he picked out the various “victims”, the reality is that for something like this to have happened, and further actually worked as presented in the novel, would take far too many things going “right.” If it wasn’t for Mrs. Christie’s lively -and highly entertaining- writing, a reader might be tempted to call bullshit on quite a few of the things which occur in the book.

Still, the so-called “suspension of disbelief” is a prime factor in enjoying any work of fiction and pointing a finger at this particular one, whether merited or not, is somewhat unfair on my part.

So I’ll end this review agreeing with the many who feel this may well be Agatha Christie’s best novel (or, at the very least, one of the two best novels she wrote).

And Then There Were None, despite its at time preposterous nature, is nonetheless a terrific work, a masterpiece (or master class) in concise writing, suspense, and well earned surprises.

Highly, highly recommended.

5 Card Stud (1968) A (Ante Up!) Review

Sheesh… am I in some kind of And Then There Were None loop here?

A few days back I saw the mini-series based on the famous Agatha Christie novel (you can read that review here), then yesterday I wrote a review of the 1985 movie Clue, which I realized was a comedic take on that same novel (you can read that review here), and last night I saw the 1968 film 5 Card Stud which, while not an obvious adaptation on Agatha Christie’s novel, sure seemed to have been shaped by it… to a degree.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

The movie’s plot goes like this: One night in a small town in the wild west, a group of gamblers, including Dean Martin’s Van Morgan and Roddy McDowall’s Nick Evers, are playing a game of (I’ll give you three guesses) 5 card stud.

Van Morgan takes a breather and while he’s gone, the others continue their game. During that time, Nick Evers realizes the out-of-towner who is playing with the regulars is cheating. In a rage, he and the others grab the man and head out to lynch him.

Van Morgan returns to find the group of plays has just left and is aghast that they’re going to lynch the man.

He rides after them and arrives just as they’re preparing the rope to hang the unfortunate man. He tries to talk the lynch mob down but Nick Evers, revealed to be a nihilistic hot-head, knocks Van Morgan out and the unfortunate out-of-towner is lynched.

The lynch mob retreats back to the town, bringing along with them the unconscious Van Morgan. They unceremoniously dump him near the bar he lives in and where the out-of-towner played his very last game.

He’s taken to his room to recover and, the next day, the lynching is discovered by the law.

The 5 card stud players, including Van Morgan, keep quiet about whodunnit and Van Morgan, after confronting and knocking out Nick Evers, decides he no longer wants to live in this town and departs.

Once gone, a preacher (Robert Mitchum, in what amounts to a extended cameo, even though he’s listed as the movie’s co-star) arrives in town and sets up his parish.

Soon after, one of the poker players is found dead.

Then another…

Van Morgan reads about the killings and returns to town and the mystery of who is killing the card players …er… plays out.

(Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there you have your And Then There Were None similarities!)

So 5 Card Stud is essentially a wild west murder mystery. The screenplay, by Marguerite Roberts was adapted from a novel by Ray Gaulden is full of interesting bits of dialogue. Ms. Roberts, it should be noted, was a long standing Hollywood screenwriter. Her first work was Sailor’s Luck from all the way back in 1933 and she immediately followed up the screenplay for this film with that of the original John Wayne version of True Grit.

In fact, as I was watching the film I found myself more often intrigued with the at times quite meaty dialogue versus the at times very pulpy murder mystery.

Roddy McDowall’s Nick Evers, in particular, is a well developed character. As I mentioned above, he’s a nihilist, someone whose philosophy seems to be to burn it all down. And Roddy McDowall, who himself had a very long career as an actor, seems on the surface an odd choice for this role yet he nails it, becoming a truly hissable villain in the process.

But…

The limitations of the story and its pulpy nature do limit just how good this film is. There is a romance -two actually- linked to Dean Martin’s Van Morgan that don’t really add all that much to the story proper and seem like deviations meant to fill up time. Not, by the way, that the romantic love interests, played by Marguerite Roberts and the lovely (and tragic, in real life) Inger Stevens are anything less than very professional and charismatic in their roles.

I suppose the problem lies in the fact that it became only too obvious too soon who the murderer was and, as a viewer, I was left with a plot that seemed only too obvious play out despite some great characterizations and dialogue.

Still, 5 Card Stud is not a terrible film but instead a movie that is limited by its plot and tries hard to break through and become something more.

There’s nothing wrong with the attempt, even if the ultimate result is something only a little more than above average.

If I were giving stars, I’d give 5 Card Stud 2 and 1/2 stars out of 4.

Take of that what you will!

The Blog of E. R. Torre

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