The Ballad of Eddie Klepp

Most people are not aware that Jackie Robinson was not the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues. That honor belongs to Moses Fleetwood Walker, who played in the American Association (then considered a Major League) in 1884. Little is written about him, and what his life must have been like. Especially, coming close on the heals of abolition.

Probably even fewer know about Eddie Klepp(sp), the first white man to play in the Negro Leagues. Chuck Brodsky wrote and performed this fantastic song about a man who “should have ran the bases in reverse”:

 

About a decade ago, I wrote a noir novel about a dead beat dad who hitch-hikes on the run from the law to Key West to watch his son pitch against the Cuban National team. I named that character Eddie Klepp, as a nod to the baseball player.  If the reports are correct and Eddie wasn’t an upstanding citizen, then I got it right in naming my character after him. If I ever find that manuscript on some thumb drive, I may just dust it off and release it.  It’s not as good as Chuck’s story, though, so give it a listen.

–TD


My first novel Everything is Broken is available.

In print from Amazon.

Widely available in eBook.

 

Advertisements

Film Noir Friday – Night and the City (1950)

The Best There Ever Was

Night and the City is the pinnacle of Film Noir. In its infancy the genre took the hardboiled detective genre and plastered it on the silver screen and embellished it with chiaroscuro imagery and precarious camera angles. The Maltese Falcon, as great a film as it is, is not the definitive film noir. It is but a child of what would come to be.

If the “Black Bird” is the toddler of the genre, then Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity” is Film Noir come-of-age. It is the fulcrum that teetered Noir in the direction of a definitive genre. I’ve never heard a better definition than a comparison once posited on the Internet somewhere (apologies that I cannot provide proper credit):

Hard-boiled = Tough

Noir = Screwed

To add my own spin on it, Film Noir features a protagonist dropped into a downward spiraling labyrinth (usually of his own doing) lined with razor blades, and with no escape.

Back to Night and the City. The story of Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark), a low-level grifter with dreams of making it big, and his attempt to con his way into London’s professional wrestling scene. Like any good noir, the beauty is knowing that Harry’s plans and actions are all doomed (how could they not be?). But watching Harry’s descent down that downward spiral, as every turn just makes things worse… until, finally, Harry’s realization that he is done/screwed/doomed -> noir, this is the beauty of the film. The fascinating aspect of Noir.

SPOILERS BELOW

The clip below could be a short film noir. It defines the genre perfectly:

Film Noir Friday: Odds Against Tomorrow

MV5BOTY5YjMzNjQtZDJiOS00ZTUyLTk5ZGMtZTI3ODBmYWQzODJmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDcxNDkxMjA@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,663,1000_AL_

My wife and I for a short time would sit down and watch a Film noir every Friday night. We called it Film noir Friday. Now I run Dungeons & Dragons for my 15-year-old son and his buddies on Friday nights. With the amount of writing I’m doing, and the other stuff entailed with publishing, and working at least 40 hours per week at the real job, and reading (critical to writing craft), and ensuring I leave four hours every Saturday to watch my Alma Mater, I don’t get a lot of time to watch old movies (or any movies).

There will not be a Film noir Friday this week, either.  But—, TCM’s Noir Alley series is screening Odds Against Tomorrow (OAT) this weekend (Sun 12 a.m. and 10 a.m. EST).  This is a notable entry for two reasons:

1) It is IMO the last film of the original Film noir cycle. Many experts claim the cycle ended in 1958 with Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, but I’ve seen none of them deny that Odds Against Tomorrow is a Film noir.  This is not a comment on the relative merits of the two films. My only argument is that Odds Against Tomorrow released in 1959 is a Film noir and should rate as part of the Classic period.  For example, it is not a neo-noir like Chinatown. (If you are interested at all, I prefer OAT to Welles’ film)

2) It is one of a handful of classic Films Noirs to tackle the race issue. I know talk of race issues in the USA (and global) is exhausting. However, it is fascinating to look back.  Back to a time before I was born from the perspective of someone who grew up in the 70s and 80s. I think it’s common to think these scabs weren’t picked at in the 40s and 50s (or maybe that’s just my narrow perspective?).  But there were a few noirs that tackled it before or in the early days of the escalating civil rights movement.  Crossfire (anti-Semitism) and No Way Out, come to mind. And OAT. I’ve seen these movies, but it has been years. I think I own Crossfire and I know I own OAT. I forget movies like I forget my own stories when I’m through with them (ask my wife, she knowsmore about what happens in Everything is Broken than I do!). But I am left with the impressions.  And I recall Odds Against Tomorrow as the best race picture of the Noirs I’ve seen, and I recall Robert Ryan as being believable and fantastic as a disgusting racist.

I own the DVD, but I’m hoping to catch the Noir Alley screening to hear what Eddie Muller has to say about the film. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. The message hides in pretty good heist film, so even if you are tired of race and don’t share my fascination in looking back on the issue I think it is enjoyable on those grounds alone. Plus, it features Gloria Grahame in a small role. Gloria is always a good reason to check out a film.

Why Pulp?

I’ve received some interesting messages this week which basically amounted to Why Pulp?

Seemed like a worthy blog post.

The answer is pretty simple. I don’t intend to wade into the literary waters. I enjoy reading literary fiction, but I have little desire to write it. I suspect I will always be simply a genre writer. The original pulps were the popular genre fiction of their day. I think there is a tendency to think pulp was, I don’t know, Indiana Jones-type stories. I love those stories. Love. But the pulps were also filled with detective stories, westerns, romance, sci-fi, weird horror, and the list goes on. So, when I say “writes pulp” I mean “writes genre fiction.” But there is more…

The pulp writers were also very prolific. They had to be at a penny (or fraction thereof) a word. They didn’t labor over a novel or short story for a year to make sure it was perfect. A polished story was the least of their concern. This led to a reputation of poor quality, partly because there was some. (Guess what? There are quite a few stinkers on the shelves of your local Barn o’ Novels.)  However, Charles Dickens was, for all intents and purposes, a pulp writer. So was Raymond Chandler. Dashiell Hammett. Edgar Rice Burroughs. H.P. Lovecraft. Robert Howard. Tons of others who wrote great stories without as much name recognition today.  They wrote a million words a year, and they got better at telling stories because of it.  My favorite author John D. MacDonald got his start in the pulps. He famously once said a writer had to get a million words out of his/her system before he/she produces anything of quality (I paraphrase). I believe in the value of practice. I believe in the value of being prolific. I do not worship at the altar of continually revising a story to make it just right.  Especially, early on in my writing journey.

Why?

Simply put, I think I’ll learn to be a better storyteller by telling more stories.

I have no better answer for Why Pulp?

Social Media

As pointed out in the comments, I’ve been slow in linking Social Media. This is partially because the only social media I ever use is Facebook, and that’s just a personal profile.

I created a Facebook Group, which once I actually get something out I will use like a newsletter to announce releases, interact with readers… and maybe even provide the occasional freebie. I am not a marketer. I am not a salesperson. It all makes me very uncomfortable, but at least people will know that by joining the group they will receive promotional stuff.  Which beats me using my personal profile like it’s some MLM.

Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/anthonydecastropulp/

So… I had hoped to avoid a Facebook “Page”, simply because it seems to have turned into a tool for Facebook Ads. I don’t necessarily have anything against the Ads. I may get around to using them, but that is somewhere down the line.  The thing I like about the Group?  If someone signs up, unless they un-follow, they should get notified of anything I post to the Group.  Not so, with the Page. Only a percentage of those following the page will get notified…unless I pay to Boost the post.  But… Facebook as of August 1st only auto-links WordPress posts to Pages, not Profiles…not Groups.  So, I have a Page, too! (as of 30 minutes ago, and I’m already getting propaganda from Facebook to pay for boosting).  I do have a Page. Please be sure to “Follow”. Hopefully, that means you have a better chance of getting notifications.

Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/tonydwritespulp/

or @tonydwritespulp

Finally, Twitter (sigh). Twitter is a complete mystery to me, but I do have an account linked to this page.

Twitter:

@decastro_tony

If that is not enough social media, amen.  For this is all I am capable of at the moment.

And thank you to reader, L.M. Warren for gently nudging me in the direction of linking my social media to the page.  I have no clue whether any of this will work properly, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

–TD

 

 

 

Fears and What I’m doing this Weekend


On my calendar this weekend I have formatting the e-book and paperback for Everything is Broken.  I also have a Drive-by Truckers concert to attend in Atlanta. Seeing DBT live (and Bob Dylan) is like a religion for me. So, I won’t be missing that. I also have the very important task of spending time with the family. I’ve always struggled to minimize the effect of my writing pursuits on my wife and son. I have always hoped that they would not need to sacrifice for my passion. I fear that lately I have failed. Not miserably, mind you. But there is no way around the fact I am stealing time away from them in the evenings doing someIndie-writerly things.

Further on fears… I am getting into unknowns. The actual publishing side of things. I tell myself that the uncertainty I feel is just the discomfort of doing things I have never really done before.  The truth is much darker.

I am struggling with Heinlein’s Rules #3 and #4.

3. You must not rewrite (unless to editorial order)

I don’t have an editor to order me to do anything. I’ve made typo fixes found by my first reader (my wife) and a copy-editor. That’s it, right? Damn, while I scanned the book formatting for e-book I noticed a typo they both missed! And this is the dark, downward spiral of Rule #3. I’m fighting the good fight, but it is very hard to not succumb to the temptations of rewriting (to death).

4. You must put it out to market.

The butterflies here are just about the same as getting up in front of a crowd and speaking. I’m an introvert, and that terrifies me. However, I am grasping onto what I’ve learned in my professional life, where I have learned to dive into the deep-end. When an opportunity arises, I volunteer, get the public speaking over with, and breathe a sigh of relief. I’ve gotten good at presenting to fairly large audiences. I will remember that and try to sprint to hitting the publish button. Then forget it and don’t read reviews if any of them ever come in. Ha ha. The key to that sprint, however, is making it to the other side of Rule #3.

Good news? I slept in until 7 a.m. today, but still got my morning words in. Tomorrow will me more difficult as I’ll be up till God knows when in the House of Rock. And somewhere in there, I need to finish formatting books. The e-book is pretty much there, I need to draft a copyright page and figure out how to get the free ISBNs input on my book from the retailers that require ISBN (and I have no clue about that, God help me if these D2D and others don’t have weekend customer support).

Have a great, prolific weekend.

Gatekeeping

When I first attempted Nanowrimo more than fifteen years ago and by extension started down my fiction writing path in earnest, there was no feasible method for Indie publishing. There was the start-up publisher iUniverse (and probably some others), who I credit with bringing visibility to the idea of print-on-demand technology. Ebooks were these clunky, really irritating things that maybe you could read on your computer or some geeky device that cost several hundreds of dollars.

The idea of self-publishing was even more frowned upon than it is today, but more importantly there was very little chance of reaching any level of success through self/indie-publishing.

Back then you had one choice — traditional publishing. And traditional publishing like any dusty, backward looking business model came with its “always done this way” rules. Some of those were:

You must have an agent. The big Five do not take non-agented submission.

No simultaneous submissions, unless the publisher specifically allows it.

I’m not going to comment on the stupidity of that simultaneous submission rule, other than to say I never followed it. Because, fuck ’em. They wanted months on end to read the submission. Even when I was 32, I didn’t have the time for that bullshit.

The agented submission is another form of bullshit that lives on today. The agents have been and continue to be gatekeepers to gatekeepers (i.e. agents -> publisher -> reader). They (agent and traditional publishers) argue that it keeps low quality work off the market protecting the reading public. In those days, I remember thinking how the indie music scene took off by cutting out the big-time record labels. Publishing has followed suit despite the best attempts of the Big-Five and agents.

There was another aspect of this agented submission requirement that was none so savory (I suspect it continues). The scam agents. Writers, so concerned that no publisher would read their submission, became easy prey to agents who would charge the writer for agent services. Disgusting.

Alas, in today’s market, where writers have taken some initiative in the markets, a new type of gatekeeping has arrived.  A new scam is breeding.

Today with the popularity of indie publishing, all of the ‘experts’ are warning of the lack of quality. The reader must be protected. NOW, every indie writer ‘must’ have their novel ‘professionally’ edited (editorial direction, developmental editing, copyediting, proofread), and they must hire a ‘professional’ book cover designer, and possibly ‘professional’ book formatting. Most of the individuals who have set-up shop in any of these cottage industries are ‘professional’ in the same way the women of the world’s oldest profession are. Which is to say, there are no professional requirements for any of these people to provide their services. Yet, nearly everyone in the industry, including fellow indie writers, claim all of it is necessary. I just received an email from Reedsy that suggests the average costs for just the minimum editing (see all that bullshit in the parenthesis above) is greater than $4000.  Formatting approx. additional grand. Same for cover design. The cost of all of these ‘required’ quality assurances is the new gatekeeper! I don’t think I need to tell you what the scam is…

This is bullshit.

Do your best. With what you can afford. Do not be deterred by this bullshit. It is all capitalizing on writer/artist fear. If you can afford a copyeditor and you don’t have a free resource, by all means purchase the service (but research credentials). If you can afford a cover artist, and you can’t do a good job of it yourself, have at it (but check the portfolio). If you can afford a formatting help, keep that money in your pocket or give it to me.

Don’t let these costs keep the gate closed. Almost all of them can be minimized or eliminated with a little creativity. And some of it should not be used (book doctor, cough), period.

And by the way, call bullshit on all of the advice I just gave, because what do I know? But do think for yourself, because you are the only one that has your interests at heart.

 

 

 

A Night with Writers

My local writing group met at a pub last night for our “Pub Night.” Go figure. It’s the less formal of the meetings that the group has every couple of weeks. The other being “Critique Night”, which I do not attend. Despite the fact that I don’t participate in critiques this group has still been welcoming of me. And the Pub Nights give me what I need or want from a writer’s group.

I am able to check in with how I am doing on my work, and I am able to talk with other writers, which is fascinating. I always come away from Pub Night, excited and re-charged.

Last night, we discussed Indie Publishing.  I tried to mostly listen and talk less… I failed miserably. I guess I’m just too passionate about all this. Still, it was great to hear how our other writers have had success with publishing. What’s worked and what hasn’t. That sorta thing.

And I did come home excited and re-charged. Everything is Broken’s copy edits are complete. Now it’s time to learn about book formatting…