The Gunther Tales.
The first Gunther book, "My Gun is My Passport," is an international epic. It's...epic. It is possible I will never be able to write such an epic tale again. It is exhausting and time consuming. (But I do have a Gunther-goes-to-China story on the back burner which is an international, multi-character, epic adventure, much like "Passport".) I consider "Passport" to be like a big, pilot episode if you will. You meet Gunther and Jefe, etc. The book won an award in Hollywood.
The second Gunther book "Last of the Gunmen," and the third in progress right now "Rio Grande Black Magic" are like...episodes after the pilot. We know who Gunther is. We know who Jefe is. I don't have to slog through all the character building of a first or solo book. A short or clever synopsis-piece can handle a catch-up overview. This series progression is a writing method true of so many, if not all novel serials, TV shows and movies. Writing 101.
In my mind, Gunther looks like the actor Rutger Hauer, who to me, never got a great serial, "hero" part in movies. I always INSIST that our artist use Hauer as a model for Johann Gunther on the front and back covers.
I think every once in a while, we need to revisit the Noble Savage myth linked to Jean-Jacques Rousseau (though it is now said that Rousseau never actually used the term, just discussed the idea). The idea is an underlying fairy tale that can screw up one's view of history as well as get one killed when making future plans for a vacation.
It seems we all have made the embedded idea of how virtuous and noble the detached savage was and it. We concocted this.
In short, the generic Noble Savage Theory - "in literature, is an idealized concept of uncivilized man, who symbolizes the innate goodness of one not exposed to the corrupting influences of civilization." says Britannica.
So, let's pick one. Tarzan. Raised in the jungle by apes. He has the value system of a old, trained zen master. Let's pick another, the whole American Indian/one-with-nature-hippy-thingy. A popular theme in the hippy days of the 60s and 70s. I was always struck by the related "peacenik" artwork back than. "If we could could just live in peace like the Native Americans, man." Peace? Ever really study this subject?
Peace? A real, unbiased study of indigenous peoples of any country will uncover a lot of mass murder, torture, ambush and theft, and a whole scale of violent acts that the educated zen masters would not do. How many people did the Incas sacrifice? Not just adults but Children too? Accidentally land on a South Pacific Island? Dude, you are lunch. When the local resources were scavenged? They moved on.
If you will read "The Better Angles of our Nature" by Pinker (and it's BIG) you can see the S..L..O..W development of mankind on a better path of nobility.
How many times does this noble savage theme appear in novels, comics, TV and movies?
Hock's email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
The London Daily Mail writes, “1984 was published in London on Wednesday, June 8, 1949, and in New York five days later. The world was eager for it. Within 12 months, it had sold around 50,000 hardbacks in the UK; in the U.S. sales were more than one-third of a million. It became a phenomenon. Sixty years later, no one can say how many millions of copies are in print, both in legitimate editions and other versions. It has been adapted for radio, stage, television and cinema, has been studied, copied and parodied and, above all, ransacked for its ideas and images. Orwell himself said, “Clearly, much of 1984 is a satire on Stalinism, from the physical description of Big Brother's face ('black-haired, black-moustachio'd, full of power and mysterious calm')”
Variety reports that the new big London hit play, 1984 will grace New York’s Broadway in the summer of 2017. Should “the People” be thanking Mr. Big Brother hisself Donald Trump for all this? You evil bastard, demigod, Adolf! Is it all the Donald’s fault?
1984. Yup, it's 2017 and it’s back stronger than ever! And a bit twisted. It seems it’s no longer about Stalin and communism, but rather also used as a tool of modern socialists to condemn their opposite…modern USA and evil capitalism. Its been used against Nixon and Bush too (see below).
Yes, it’s back today because the so-called "resistance-liberals" and you might say "Bernie Sanderettes” have elevated it. You know Bernie and the Sanderettes? The people who think "2 tax dollars plus two tax dollars equal 5 tax dollars" and massive taxes cure ALL problems? Except everyday life and commerce of course, but let’s not get too real here.
A new movement has channeled 1984, twisted its original message into a Hitler-easque, Trump dystopia. (Even Hitler fought Stalin, a fact perhaps new, young, skinny-jeaned, muscle-free, bearded kids and vagina-hatted girls never learned in their schools? Or, more precisely were never taught abilities to connect the dots and create common sense and logic.)
“Get ready to party like it’s 1984.” A reviewer recently said about the book and the times. according to the…New York Times.
"You better read 1984! See the play! It’s where the republicans will take us!” is the subtle message in the revival.
Why 1984? “It’s a frame of reference that people can reach for in response to government deception, propaganda, the misuse of language, and those are things that occur all the time,” said Alex Woloch, an English professor at Stanford University who has written about the roots of Orwell’s political language. Please not the phrase – “all things that occur all the time.”
I personally think that the ineffectual republicans are not taking us to Nazi-ism or Big Brother-ism or anywhere for that matter. Have you seen these wimps the last 12 years? Or perhaps the revived message and fears are just against Trump and all “his white, stupid, racist people?” But have you heard the recent speeches for the 2017 Democratic Party leadership positions? One candidate Boynton Brown said “…and my job is to shut other white people down.” Yup, but I digress. All that twisted crap is another essay.
Orwell kicked off the terms ‘double-think’ and ‘news-peak.’ Orwell did not invent ‘double-speak,’ a combo of the two, which is automatically connected to him through time. Double-speak is saying one thing and meaning another, usually its opposite.”
Opposites in government. We joke in ‘Merica” that the title of many laws passed here, actually produce the opposite of the title. While people pick apart the syllables and prepositional phrases from the verbose, disjointed, motor-mouth Trump conversations with the public, desperate to find any possible fault/contradiction, maybe they need to look at the trick title - “Affordable Care Act” for real ass-end, opposite-ness with a GIANT effect. You know, that giant viral cancer-law whose tendrils have so quickly, so deeply wrapped and sucked into numerous, American institutions (and tax programs), to the point of slow economic death. It is actually, truly the “Unaffordable Care Act.”
This is perhaps the most crippling example of double-speak, created by Democrats, that Trump will never out-trump in his fast-talking jargon. It is unlikely that Kelly Anne Conway’s term “alternate set of facts” over Trump crowd-sized will ever top the trick title and results of “Affordable/Unaffordable Care.”
Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times took exaggerated use of Conway’s remarks, bolstering the 1984 concept -
That’s scary. But, dear Michiko, seriously, Conway was talking about the size of crowds, not something important like national health-care. But Kakutnai used this crowd-trivia to inspire this NYT article title called – Why ‘1984’ Is a 2017 Must-Read and connect to and for the world, 1984, because you know, Trump is Hitler and Stalin and...and, Darth Vader.
Oh so chilling, isn’t it? Michiko, you scared me to death with your earth-shattering connection with Conway. Folks, if you don’t see this as a liberal, propaganda S-T-R-E-T-C-H. you’ve lost your ability to reason, free of bias. Michiko also mentions that Nixon was accused of Big brotherism. Then there’s Bush for the Patriot Act. Not Clinton? Not Obama? So, is this 1984 schtick/charade just something Democrats do to Republicans and young people fall for it? Thee...classic...playbook out and dusted off.
Anyway, I was re-introduced to 1984 decades later in the 2000s, thanks to Christopher Hitchens who fairly well, worshiped Orwell and all his writings, mentioning him frequently in numerous articles and speeches. Hitchen’s body of work is far more than the atheism he is condemned for, and so too was George Orwell’s writing career more than an anti-communist 1984.
I would also like to call your attention to the below links, which documents the general rise of dystopian world entertainment, above and well beyond manipulative, propaganda politics. It is actually depressing. It appears that young people like to be depressed about it and there are studies and discussions that they also have a dimmer hope for the future, anticipating a "Mad Max" world? A "Hunger Games" world? A "Walking Dead" world? I don’t know. What do you think?
Depressed? In a recent CNN town hall with Nancy Pelosi. A young dude asked the open-mike question, "surveys show that 51% of the younger generation do not believe in capitalism, what will the Democratic Party do to conform?” A Bernie Sanderette?
What study was this, Mr. Sanderette? Pelosi sort of dodged the question, not wanting to lose that voting block, I imagine? (Obama-Care is really Pelosi-Care if you know your reality-history.)
Bells go off in my head when I hear the term "slippery slope," because I don't think all slopes are quite that slippery as claimed, but I do think a socialist, Sanderette-world is a step closer to big brother government and an eventual 1984-world, than what capitalism and the US Constitution re-enforces. Geez people. CONNECT THE DOTS!
What would Orwell think about it all today, I wonder? Would he think that the Affordable Care Act was pure double-speak? Would the evil princess Kelly Anne Conway be “Big Sisterhood?” Orwell also wrote Animal Farm, another old school reading requirement. Will it too be twisted around into a socialistic cause for the Bernie Sanderettes?
First off, why didn’t the world of Facebook tell me the new Sherlock season was starting! I discovered it by a channel surfing accident three weekends ago. And you call me a friend?
The usual 3 episode count. It’s a wonder they can get these two guys to do a “little” TV series, as super busy as they are. But the responsibility of being beloved worldwide is burdensome (240 markets) and they are an iconic, FABULOUS Holmes and Watson. How can you not return for an occasional 3-bee? This says a lot from me - someone who has begrudgingly watched each new Holmes since Basil Rathbone, then wound up satisfied with most versions. I seem to be mesmerized by the Cumberbatch version, as I was the Britt version.
This new “season,” the 3 storylines were terrible. Must Mary be a super-spy assassin? The last whacky episode was like a Batman movie with Sherlock and Watson magically dropping on the top of a ship top in a storm, and a magic sister controlling such a large team of criminals via…her sheer brain power(?) as to coordinate death, destruction and manipulations. Just ridiculous. The plots in all three episodes were BAD! (Episode 2 had a great serial killer though. 2 was the best of the 3. Okay, I am fudging a bit as I think about it.)
Still, still, still, the writer/creators (Mycroft is one of them) gave us just enough Sherlock/Watson/Hudson/Mycroft/Molly/bad-guy moments to stay engaged. What screen presence they all have! But they keep pushing the plot limits and pushing, and pushing year after year until these absurdities. Writers! You not have to push that hard. We don’t need to turn Sherlock into a camp, Roger Moore genre of James Bond! Stop it! Don’t turn him into Doctor Who, for God’s sake.
Then the last few minutes of the last episode, though. Tied something together through in a brilliant piece of narrative and a college of film clips -
“The Junkie who gets high solving crimes and the doctor who never came home from the war,”
- what a consummate, poetic, line. This finale piece suggests a future return to stability? Or the end of the show? If there are other seasons, will they just solve some damn crimes? Minus the unreal absurdities? Or instead did the narrative suggest, signal the departure and the end? – the timelessness of Holmes and Watson AND the total end of the Cumberbatch series?
Growing up with Rathbone and reading the stories, and addicted to the Jeremy Britt series version, Sherlock is an amazing piece of nostalgia for me and many of us. I hope Mrs. Hudson’s boys will return in another year or two, with everyone’s feet closer to the cobblestones.
Hock's email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
Lots of people really like Clint Eastwood and his movies. I do too, make no mistake. As a small kid I watched him on the Rawhide TV show and rode through the spaghetti westerns on up to Sully. He says that he’d learned to direct and even produce from 60s television.
Okay, but, I especially like Clint movies that he does not direct or control, which are few. I think Clint is best when working for someone else, when there exists another creative-control-source or two. “In the Line of Fire.” “Dirty Harry.” ”Magnum Force.” “Good, Bad. Ugly,” etc. He, like most if us, needs an outsider's eye and outside help.
In the films he fully controls, there are chinks in the armor of the plot. They are almost “1960s” chinks. Hard for me to describe and maybe too long for here, but "60s chinks." And dare I say -"corny 60s." No one usually cares because its Clint and maybe the film, like American Sniper is such a big event and so good in many other ways, no one cares. And hey, he fully controlled Unforgiven which was essentially flawless.
But chinks? In the movie American Sniper, Kyle goes down to ground level to help the infantry raid houses. In the scene, Kyle stands before a team, outside a door and gun ready, he raps his helmet a few hits with his fist. Everyone just looks at each, like..."what's that?" Another Army guy then whispers something like - "that's how the SEALs tell each other they are ready to go in." In real life, Kyle actually taught and helped Army infantry, but the movie blows this. In the movie, another Army guy has to explain the helmet rap? If Kyle was actually teaching and helping, he would have taught the rap before a raid, as well as a dozen other things. That Sniper script went through many, many hands and numerous producers and how that silly scene made it into the final cut of movie is just odd to me.
But my most favorite Clint Eastwood film, just above In The Line of Fire, and one he directed, produced and controlled is "White Hunter, Black Heart" back in the 1980s. It fictionalizes director John Houston and the backstory of the African Queen movie. It’s kind of an “inside baseball” story about Houston and the movie world. It did not do well in the box office, I guess because he wasn’t massively killing bad guys or something? John Houston was a strange eccentric person and Eastwood does a great job capturing the Houston persona and the times.
Hocks email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
What a western. It touches upon, relates too and reminds us of so many other great westerns. Like True Grit and Lonesome Dove, so many! The cast fantastic, cinematography crisp, clear and perfect, the quirky, yet so realistic aspects of the storytelling. The same for us in many ways, yet then so different than anything else.
I wanted to remind folks of this movie, and it is a bit of a cult film, but I am torn here to remind people just as much of the one and only Sam Peckinpah - the director and writer/director of many interesting films. I was and still am somewhat fascinated by Peckinpah and his Hemingway-esque writings and his life-issue-grapplings. I have read two books about Sam and his career as a result. No doubt booze killed him and his brain off slowly. All depriving us of some major, superlative film. Something like,...oh...the Unforgiven, Shane or something when all his ideas, ideals of manliness, and the West, and the gun, might have forged together, the stars aligned for massive epic. Some say The Wild Bunch was the pinnacle. But if he could have kept working...?
Sam drank to work, the drink slowly stifling his brain and his work, then drank more due to the frustrations of his expectations - caused by the drink. Then he burned a hole in his guts. What a cycle. What a shame.
Anyway, here's to Ride the High Country. And to Sam.
In 1983 and 1884 I wrote an action, police book called “Punches” about a Houston, Texas police detective Jumpen Jack Kellog. In it, Kellog fights an hybrid, bastard mix of the Texas “Cowboy Mafia” and the Yankee, New York Mafia. A small publisher in Michigan, Cannon-King, a firm that did about 12 books a year, to include about 4 cook books a year, liked the story and picked it up in a hardcover. We sold about 6,000 books through their distribution chain and book catalogs, which is not bad for a first time novel so they tell me. We bickered about the cover as usual, but such is life. Then Cannon-King went under by about 1988. (Cookbooks kept them alive for years and allowed them to dabble in other books they found interesting, like mine.) By 1988 or so, I just assumed the rights to the book - no one was left to care - and put the project away on my shelf. But I always thought Jack Kellog was a great character.
Before Cannon-King, the book was almost accepted by St Martin’s Press, which is a big, BIG League publisher. I had an agent in New York, last name Brown, who schlepped the book through the horrible, book-slog system. St Martins had monthly editor meetings and they liked the premise of Punches. BUT, the Kevin Costner movie, "The Untouchables," was popular then and the board told Brown that I needed to make Kellog a married man (like Elliot Ness in the movie) and that would make for more tension in the book and be like “other genre things.” I told Brown that the whole premise of the book was that Kellog was an unmarried, loner and the two mafias could not scare him in the traditional ways. Disappointed, Brown said “well, okay” and passed that news on. The next month they met again, and with my no-married news, they turned me flat down. They actually told Brown, “Fuck him. He’s not Stephen King.”
I think that Stephen King line was popular because to my memory I think have heard some other authors receive the same message? Looking back, I should have jumped on that St Martins deal, the Kellog series persona or not.
We later "went" with (is "settled-for" a better verb?) Cannon-King. I made a paltry amount of money as 99% of all writers do. Cannon-King disappeared. Punches, fell back into my hands and sat abandoned on the shelf.
The end of the Kellog story? No! I have been working with the same few guys in “Hollywood” since about 2002 or so. I was under contract and was almost the host of a TV show back then called “Worst Case Scenario,” but I was beat out by the now-famous Mike Rowe. That show was terrible and died in one season. The particulars of the show experience would make for another essay. (Mike Rowe is awesome by the way, then and now). I was almost a co-host of the remake of American Gladiators – the subject of another essay. In 2011, I was producing a reality show about hunting Dead Beat Dads really under way. Had a theme song. Shot some prlim footage. Budget. I was producing it all myself. Then it was nixed. I have been a consultant on a few, low-running cable shows. In 2013, I shot a half-hour pilot TV show with these guys in Hollywood, CA itself about survival fighting and crime. Nothing. Crickets. I recently worked on a war hero-history series. I got a lot of writing and scripts done on it. Then…nixed by the cable network. I might have been the host, but I really am happy just being a writer.
Despite the numerous failures, still, when my guys in Hollywood asked me to write or do something? I always do it, but as a complete pessimist. I never bragged on any of this, because our projects always die, like 99.9999% of all other, book, movie and TV show ideas. (But I have helped some friends get on television thanks to connections to and with these folks.)
So, in about 2009, “Hollywood” called again with a few ideas and my friend Dave said,
“Do you still have that old police book laying around?”
“Punches?” I said.
“Yes, It might make a good 2-hour TV movie. Can you work up a treatment for it, and send us a book?”
“I can. But the book is old. I am a much better writer now after 20 years. I guess I could rework the book?”
“Yeah. Yes, do that.”
So dutifully, I dusted Punches off the shelf, and punched it up. I still love the story and it was fun to enhance and deepen it. It is still like an 80s, 90s police, action movie and in 1985, “Punches” also had numerous pre-Tarantino events in it. The plot also had and still has, a dirty cop character, that was seduced as a mole/spy, by the mob, while said cop was in the academy. This was happening for real here and there back in the 1980s, as we cops were warned back then. This theme appeared many years later, such as in the movie “The Departed.” And in the Whitey Bulger stories. But yours truly had it in my 1985 novel. So now, when people read “Be Bad Now,” and they see these Tarantino moments, and Departed moments, they think I am a “copier?” No. In fact, after you’ve watched the TV Series “Justified,” and see how Kellog acts like Raylon Givens sometimes? You might think I copied some of that? Nope, and no. No copy. The original Kellog was decades before these modern, media things like "Justified."
So, in 2010, Punches became “Be Bad Now.” How? Why the title change? There was/is a line in the book I ripped off from real life. Myself and a tough, FBI agent caught an armed robber while he was talking in a Dallas phone booth once. We both drew down on the guy and the agent said,
“I heard you was a real bad dude.” The end of both our gun barrels were inches from his head. Then he finished with, “Well...be bad now.”
Even at the crazy moment, I thought that was one of the coolest lines I’d ever heard. So, that line and situation appeared in the original Punches and of course, also in the re-write. I decided to change the title to “Be Bad Now.” WHAT A TITLE!
In the re-write, I kept the time period of 1985 during the 80s oil crunch of susceptible millionaires needing mafia money. At the re-write time, there were a few of these time era/piece, police movies and TV shows out, so the idea of an 1985 police thriller was somewhat, “genre-acceptable.” “Be Bad Now” is so MUCH better than “Punches.” Our agent, our German partners and distributors liked and accepted the book and we all started selling “Be Bad Now” in about 2011.
I have written an irresistible Kellog, short story, “At Least They Died with Their Boots On.” And, I have in my head, a terrific plot for a follow-up Kellog book adventure. Will I get to it? I can only write so much at a time. My agent told me to keep writing serial characters, throwing them against the wall and see what sticks. So far, the Johann Gunther books have stuck best.
But I still miss writing about ol' City of West Forge, Texas, Detective Sgt. Jumpen Jack Kellog.
Hock's email HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
My first book has been lost through time. In 1981 my "Great Escapes of Pancho Villa" was published by a small north Texas publishing company, Pennington Press. It was non-fiction and concerned itself with some terrific, death-defying escapes. When I first discovered these Villa escapes from various history books, I was amazed by them. I collected those escapes from various perspectives. The rest of the Villa/Revolution history was briefly tucked in between the action escapes as filler and set-up for the situational escapes he'd experienced. I wrote the synopsises.
It started out as a local, newspaper series, a filler I guess, between ads, and to my surprise was well received. A guy at Pennington read them and said, "that should be a book, you know." And we extrapolated from there. Pennington did all kinds of things. Cook books. Calendars. Memoirs. Area newspapers, whatever caught their fancy that they thought they could peddle.
I hand wrote the book on loose leaf paper. Double-spaced and large so the typesetting girl could decipher the words. It's all gone now. The book was typeset on a giant old, newspaper-like-machine, looked like a metal, church organ and the poor girl could only read a typed few words at a time in this small screen box, as she typed. Like 5 words at a time. The cover they selected was an old Villa wanted poster. It was hard to get art and photos back then.
We sold about 5,000 copies or so, of this paperback book. All you had to do was advertise a book in a right places back then. There weren't many outlets for readers of certain subjects. Libraries bought some too. I attended two book fairs, one big one in San Antonio which was a big seller for little old us. The San Antonio book fair always has a heavy Hispanic flavor too it, so the book on Villa did well down there.
Then, time killed off Pennington and I have moved so many times since, I have lost the few copies I had. My mother might have had one. But she died and when we went through her stuff? I didn't see one there either. She too, probably tossed it. Ho-hum.
I can't remember how "good" it was, might have been terrible by today's standards or my at least my standards of today, but I would like to have at least one copy.
All the background research on Pancho Villa will not go to waste. I have an outline for a Gunther book involving Pancho Villa for somewhere down the line. It's a doozey.
Hock's email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
Charlton Heston use to say, "there are a million good actors. You have to be a lucky, good actor." Having been involved in the book business since the 1980s, for writers, I paraphrase that line and say, "there are a million good writers, you have to be a lucky, good writer."
I have had writing friends. some quite good, disagree and reply, "I think good stories rise to the top." This is very naive. So, as to not argue, my only reply to them is, "then I will await your resounding and quick success." That success never came. I am still waiting. Without that lucky break, it ain't.
While you make your own luck by perseverance...sure...it still takes a Gladwelllian "tipping point" to break into writing success. I guess you can define writing-success many ways, but most define it as "selling really well" and, or "reaching and satisfying a LOT of readers." It's no fun unless someone else reads it!
In the end, to set this springboard stage, you do write for yourself. It's a compulsion, Like a musician practices. If you don't have that drive? Or that music? It never happens in anything, in any way.
My biggest kicks are still getting/capturing a great turn of a phrase - poetry really. And getting a good review. A happy reader. I guess that covers both ends of the writer's spectrum, huh? Inside and outside.
Hocks email: HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
Johann Gunther is back, and yes by popular demand, in Last of the Gunman.
Its 1908. The United States is floundering deep in the struggle to recover from the financial Panic of 1907 and the San Francisco earthquake. Then someone murders a philanthropist tycoon on the streets of Fort Worth. A flamboyant police detective stands accused of the crime. While he languishes in jail, a gang of killers murder his beautiful, exotic wife in a daring daylight robbery. In the process, they also kill a former Louisiana judge who gets in their way. The killers? Members of a minor league baseball team who commit an assortment of sadistic crimes across the country while on tour with their team. Meet the first criminal biker gang and Texas Ranger Chester Winch, the mastermind behind their deadly killing and robbery sprees. Combine the gang’s thirst for money with an independent and sinister plot by robber barons to alter the American and world economies with secret injections of money, and you have a ticking time bomb of crimes waiting to explode. What happens when the most modern and organized criminals of the day go after the largest pocket of secret money in the world? Who can the Texas governor call for help? Who does the accused police detective call for from his jail cell? Johann Gunther of Remedies Detective Agency.
Yes, Gunther is back from his death-defying adventure in Afghanistan, as chronicled in My Gun is My Passport with a new and different, but no less dangerous, case. Now, with his partner Jefe, and some critical help from the legendary Bat Masterson, Gunther faces brutal violence and vicious death right in his home town of Fort Worth and on the flat lands of West Texas in a climatic firefight to rival that at the O.K. Corral.
In a new 20th Century world of cars, guns, motorcycles, baseball, hit men, corruption, global economies and organized crime, who are the last of the gunmen? And what will it take to stop their crime wave and bloody reign of terror? Johann Gunther aims to find out, and he aims and shoots to kill.