Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Books Adapted to Screen

A couple of funny comic strips brought in by valued GRG'er Kathleen R.!




















Love ‘em or hate ‘em, film/tv adaptations of books are hot right now and the Genre Reading Group met last evening to tackle this genre!  

Our next meeting will be Tuesday, September 29th at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion will be diet, nutrition, and fitness.  I make no promises, but I’ll try to have some healthy snacking options available at that meeting.  It’d be awkward otherwise…


Aaaaannnndddd ACTION!



The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
(powells) The Remains of the Day is a profoundly compelling portrait of the perfect English butler and of his fading, insular world in postwar England. At the end of his three decades of service at Darlington Hall, Stevens embarks on a country drive, during which he looks back over his career to reassure himself that he has served humanity by serving "a great gentleman." But lurking in his memory are doubts about the true nature of Lord Darlington's "greatness" and graver doubts about his own faith in the man he served.

(rottentomatoes) Filmed with the usual meticulous attention to period and detail of films from Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, The Remains of the Day is based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Anthony Hopkins plays Stevens, the "perfect" butler to a prosperous British household of the 1930s. He is so unswervingly devoted to serving his master, a well-meaning but callow British lord (James Fox), that he shuts himself off from all emotions and familial relationships. New housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) tries to warm him up and awaken his humanity. But when duty calls, Stevens won't even attend his own dying father's last moments on earth. The butler also refuses to acknowledge the fact that his master is showing signs of pro-Nazi sentiments. 

Disillusioned by Hitler's duplicity, the master dies an embittered man, and only then does Stevens come to realize how his own silence has helped bring about this sad situation. Years later, regretting his lost opportunities in life, he tries once more to make contact with Miss Kenton, the only person who'd ever cared enough to seek out the human being inside the butler's cold veneer. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Martian by Andy Weir
(powells) Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive — and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

The Martian (WOOHOO!!!  THE RELEASE DATE HAS BEEN MOVED UP FROM THANKSGIVING TO OCTOBER 2, 2015!!! MARK YOUR CALENDARS!!!  JUST FOR GOOD MEASURE!!!!)
(rottentomatoes) During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring "the Martian" home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney's safe return. Based on a best-selling novel, and helmed by master director Ridley Scott, THE MARTIAN features a star studded cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover. (C) Fox

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
(amazon) After twenty years spent mastering the art of dressmaking at couture houses in Paris, Tilly Dunnage returns to the small Australian town she was banished from as a child. She plans only to check on her ailing mother and leave. But Tilly decides to stay, and though she is still an outcast, her lush, exquisite dresses prove irresistible to the prim women of Dungatar. Through her fashion business, her friendship with Sergeant Farrat—the town’s only policeman, who harbors an unusual passion for fabrics—and a budding romance with Teddy, the local football star whose family is almost as reviled as hers, she finds a measure of grudging acceptance. But as her dresses begin to arouse competition and envy in town, causing old resentments to surface, it becomes clear that Tilly’s mind is set on a darker design: exacting revenge on those who wronged her, in the most spectacular fashion.

The Dressmaker (not available on DVD yet)
(rottentomatoes) Based on the best-selling novel by Rosalie Ham, this bittersweet, comedy-drama is set in early 1950s Australia. Tilly Dunnage, a beautiful and talented misfit, after many years working as a dressmaker in exclusive Parisian fashion houses, returns home to the tiny middle-of-nowhere town of Dungatar to right the wrongs of the past. Not only does she reconcile with her ailing, eccentric mother Molly and unexpectedly falls in love with the pure-hearted Teddy, but armed with her sewing machine and incredible sense of style, she transforms the women of the town and in so doing gets sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.

(powells) BeforeSex and the City and Viagra™, America relied on Masters and Johnson to teach us everything we needed to know about what goes on in the bedroom. Convincing hundreds of men and women to shed their clothes and copulate, the pair were the nation’s top experts on love and intimacy. Highlighting interviews with the notoriously private Masters and the ambitious Johnson, critically acclaimed biographer Thomas Maier shows how this unusual team changed the way we all thought about, talked about, and engaged in sex while they simultaneously tried to make sense of their own relationship. Entertaining, revealing, and beautifully told, Masters of Sex sheds light on the eternal mysteries of desire, intimacy, and the American psyche.

(rottentomatoes) The lives of sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson are depicted in this critically acclaimed drama. Season 1 begins with Masters (Michael Sheen), a successful gynecologist at Washington University in St Louis, conducting a secret study of human sexuality. Soon, he meets Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), a former nightclub singer who is now part of the hospital secretarial staff. He enlists her help with his study, and she quickly proves to be an asset to Masters's work. Together, they delve deeper than anyone before them into the science of sex and later become participants in their own research, which takes an unforeseen toll on Masters's married life.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
(powells) In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years in the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele — Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles — as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary.

Kaysen's memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a "parallel universe" set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery."Poignant, honest and triumphantly funny. . . [a] compelling and heartbreaking story." --Susan Cheever, The New York Times Book Review

(rottentomatoes) In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, Susanna Kaysen was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder-an affliction with symptoms so ambiguous almost any adolescent girl might qualify-and sent to a renowned New England psychiatric hospital where she spent the next two years in a ward for teenage girls. There, Susanna loses herself in an OZ-like nether world of seductive and disturbed young women: among them Lisa, a charming sociopath who stages a disastrous escape with Susanna, Daisy, a pampered girl with a predilection for rotisserie chicken, and Polly, a remarkably kind burn victim. Ultimately, assisted by the hospital's head psychiatrist, Dr. Wick, and a no-nonsense ward nurse, Valerie, Susanna, like Dorothy, resolves to leave this Oz and reclaim her life.

(amazon) Willy Wonka's famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

(rottentomatoes) Promoted as a family musical by Paramount Pictures, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is more of a black comedy, perversely faithful to the spirit of Roald Dahl's original book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Enigmatic candy manufacturer Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) stages a contest by hiding five golden tickets in five of his scrumptious candy bars. Whoever comes up with these tickets will win a free tour of the Wonka factory, as well as a lifetime supply of candy. Four of the five winning children are insufferable brats: the fifth is a likeable young lad named Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), who takes the tour in the company of his equally amiable grandfather (Jack Albertson). In the course of the tour, Willy Wonka punishes the four nastier children in various diabolical methods -- one kid is inflated and covered with blueberry dye, another ends up as a principal ingredient of the chocolate, and so on -- because these kids have violated the ethics of Wonka's factory. In the end, only Charlie and his grandfather are left. Ostensibly set in England, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was lensed in Germany (as revealed by the film's final overhead shot). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

(rottentomatoes) Director Tim Burton brings his unique vision and sensibility to Roald Dahl's classic children's story in this lavish screen interpretation. Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) is the secretive and wildly imaginative man behind the world's most celebrated candy company, and while the Wonka factory is famously closed to visitors, the reclusive candy man decides to give five lucky children a chance to see the inside of his operation by placing "golden tickets" in five randomly selected chocolate bars. Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore), whose poor but loving family lives literally in the shadow of the Wonka factory, is lucky enough to obtain one of the tickets, and Charlie, escorted by his Grandpa Joe (David Kelly), is in for the ride of a lifetime as he tours the strange and remarkable world of Wonka with fellow winners, media-obsessed Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry), harsh and greedy Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), gluttonous Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz), and ultra-competitive Violet Beauregarde (AnnaSophia Robb). Over the course of the day, some of the children will learn difficult lessons about themselves, and one will go on to become Wonka's new right hand. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory also stars Christopher Lee, James Fox, and Noah Taylor; the book was famously adapted to the screen before in 1971 under the title Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, with Gene Wilder as the eccentric candy tycoon. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Marvel’s Ant Man Prelude by Will Corona Pilgrim
(powells) Get ready for Marvel's next smash-hit film with this all-new official prequel! Before Scott Lang becomes Marvel's shrinking sensation, his predecessor, Dr. Hank Pym, will pull on the Ant-Man helmet and leap into action on a death-defying mission that will take him into the icy heart of Cold War East Berlin! Then, thrill to an all-new Infinite-style adventure set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as explosive new details in the history of the astonishing Ant-Man are revealed! But can the lessons of his past prepare him for the trials he is about to face? Plus: Experience Scott Lang's comic-book transformation into Ant-Man and the first chapter in his all-new adventures, and witness a dramatic change for the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym! The action-packed buildup to Marvel' Ant-Man begins here, so get on board now!

Ant Man (not available on DVD yet)
(rottentomatoes) The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studios' "Ant-Man." Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world. -- (C) Marvel

Shrek! by William Steig
(powells) Before Shrek made it big on the silver screen, there was William Steigs SHREK!, a book about an ordinary ogre who leaves his swampy childhood home to go out and see the world. Ordinary, that is, if a foul and hideous being who ends up marrying the most stunningly ugly princess on the planet is what you consider ordinary.

(rottentomatoes) Once upon a time, in a far away swamp, there lived an ornery ogre named Shrek whose precious solitude is suddenly shattered by an invasion of annoying fairy tale characters. There are blind mice in his food, a big, bad wolf in his bed, three little homeless pigs and more, all banished from their kingdom by the evil Lord Farquaad. Determined to save their home--not to mention his own--Shrek cuts a deal with Farquaad and sets out to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona to be Farquaad's bride. Accompanying him on his mission is wisecracking Donkey, who will do anything for Shrek... except shut up. Rescuing the Princess from a fire-breathing dragon may prove the least of their problems when the deep, dark secret she has been keeping is revealed.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
(powells) The year is 1945 and Claire Beauchamp Randall, a former British combat nurse, is on holiday in Scotland with her husband, looking forward to becoming reacquainted after the war's long separation. Like most practical women, Claire hardly expects her curiosity to get the better of her. But an ancient stone circle near her lodgings holds an eerie fascination, and when she innocently touches one of the giant boulders, she's hurtled backward in time more than two hundred years, to 1743.

Alone where no lady should be alone, and far from the familiar comforts of her other life, Claire's usual resourcefulness is tested to the limit. The merciless garrison captain so feared by others bears an uncanny resemblance to the husband she has just left behind. Her own odd circumstances expose her to accusations of witchcraft. And the strands of a political intrigue she doesn't understand threaten to ensnare her at every turn.

But of all the perils her new life holds, none is more disquieting than her growing feelings for James Fraser, the gallant young Scot she is forced to marry for her own protection. Sworn by his wedding vows to keep her from harm, Jamie's passion for Claire goes beyond duty. As she struggles with the memories of another lifetime, she is forced to make an agonizing and fateful choice, and learns ultimately that a man's instinct to protect the woman he loves is as old as time.

(rottentomatoes) While on her second honeymoon, World War II combat nurse Claire Randall, played by Irish actress Caitriona Balfe, is mysteriously transported back in time to 1743 Scotland. After an encounter with a British soldier, she's kidnapped by a group of Scottish Highlanders whose ranks include an injured young man named Jamie.

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
(powells) Rebecca Bloomwood just hit rock bottom. But she's never looked better....
Becky Bloomwood has a fabulous flat in London's trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season's must-haves. The only trouble is that she can't actually afford it — not any of it.

Her job writing at Successful Savings not only bores her to tears, it doesn't pay much at all. And lately Becky's been chased by dismal letters from Visa and the Endwich Bank — letters with large red sums she can't bear to read — and they're getting ever harder to ignore.

She tries cutting back; she even tries making more money. But none of her efforts succeeds. Becky's only consolation is to buy herself something ... just a little something....

Finally a story arises that Becky actually cares about, and her front-page article catalyzes a chain of events that will transform her life — and the lives of those around her — forever.

Sophie Kinsella has brilliantly tapped into our collective consumer conscience to deliver a novel of our times — and a heroine who grows stronger every time she weakens. Becky Bloomwood's hilarious schemes to pay back her debts are as endearing as they are desperate. Her "confessions" are the perfect pick-me-up when life is hanging in the (bank) balance.

(rottentomatoes) In the glamorous world of New York City, Rebecca Bloomwood is a fun-loving girl who is really good at shopping--a little too good, perhaps. She dreams of working for her favorite fashion magazine, but can't quite get her foot in the door--until ironically, she snags a job as an advice columnist for a financial magazine published by the same company. As her dreams are finally coming true, she goes to ever more hilarious and extreme efforts to keep her past from ruining her future.

The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre
(powells) Frightening, heartbreaking, and exquisitely calibrated, John le Carré's new novel opens with the gruesome murder of the young and beautiful Tessa Quayle near northern Kenya's Lake Turkana, the birthplace of mankind. Her putative African lover and traveling companion, a doctor with one of the aid agencies, has vanished from the scene of the crime. Tessa's much older husband, Justin, a career diplomat at the British High Commission in Nairobi, sets out on a personal odyssey in pursuit of the killers and their motive.

A master chronicler of the deceptions and betrayals of ordinary people caught in political conflict, le Carré portrays, in The Constant Gardener,the dark side of unbridled capitalism. His eighteenth novel is also the profoundly moving story of a man whom tragedy elevates. Justin Quayle, amateur gardener and ineffectual bureaucrat, seemingly oblivious to his wife's cause, discovers his own resources and the extraordinary courage of the woman he barely had time to love. The Constant Gardener is a magnificent exploration of the new world order by one of the most compelling and elegant storytellers of our time.

(rottentomatoes) When a British diplomat's wife -- a socially-conscious lawyer -- turns up dead in Kenya, he sets out to find the truth surrounding her murder. In the process, he finds out that his wife had been compiling data against a multinational drug company that uses helpless Africans as guinea pigs to test a tuberculosis remedy with unfortunately fatal side effects. Therefore, those who may have had the most reason to silence her are closer to home than he ever imagined.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre
(powells) The man he knew as "Control" is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley isn't quite ready for retirement—especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal cadre, Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla—his Moscow Centre nemesis—and sets a trap to catch the traitor.

(rottentomatoes) Based on the classic novel of the same name, the international thriller is set at the height of the Cold War years of the mid-20th Century. George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government - which fears that the British Secret Intelligence Service, a.k.a. MI-6, has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets. -- (C) Focus Features

(amazon) "Marvelously riveting" --The New York Times "Scintillating, seductive" --The Washington Post
The thrilling sequel to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Tell Max it concerns the Sandman…
Both had supposedly outlived their usefulness to the Circus, the British Secret Intelligence Service: George Smiley, the retired head of espionage, and General Vladimir, an aging informant who reported to him. When the general walks into a bullet after sending an urgent message to his old handler, the Circus asks Smiley to "tidy things up." But Smiley hears Vladimir’s message as a call to arms against his nemesis, the Soviet super spy Karla, once again tantalizingly within his grasp.
Alec Guinness reprises the role of British spymaster George Smiley in this gripping sequel to the television masterpiece Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Filmed on location in London, Paris, Hamburg, and Berne, Smiley’s People also stars Eileen Atkins, Anthony Bate, Bernard Hepton, Michael Lonsdale, Beryl Reid, Patrick Stewart, and Bill Paterson.



 What are YOU reading and watching?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Real Life Adventures

The August 25th meeting will be dedicated to books that have been adapted into film, fiction and nonfiction alike.  Your choice :-) 

Buckle up and hold on to your hats!  Real life adventure was up for discussion last night and the books ranged far and wide; from Africa to Spain to Utah to the furthest reaches of the solar system.


Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway
(powells.com) His second major venture into nonfiction (after Death in the Afternoon in 1932), Green Hills of Africa is Ernest Hemingway's lyrical journal of a month on safari in the great game country of East Africa, where he and his wife Pauline journeyed in December of 1933. Hemingway's well-known interest in — and fascination with — big-game hunting is magnificently captured in this evocative account of his trip. In examining the poetic grace of the chase, and the ferocity of the kill, Hemingway also looks inward, seeking to explain the lure of the hunt and the primal undercurrent that comes alive on the plains of Africa. Yet Green Hills of Africa is also an impassioned portrait of the glory of the African landscape, and of the beauty of a wilderness that was, even then, being threatened by the incursions of man. Hemingway's rich description of the beauty and strangeness of the land and his passion for the sport of hunting combine to give Green Hills of Africa the freshness and immediacy of a deeply felt personal experience that is the hallmark of the greatest travel writing.

(powells.com) Magnetically written by former CEO of a North Carolina Girl Scout Council and award winning CEO for the Western New York chapter of a national arts-in-education organization, this uniquely engaging travel journal describes four keys to unlocking personal and spiritual fulfillment: solitude, introspection, courage, and commitment. Through a series of compelling travel essays and deeply thoughtful memoirs, Janice Booth draws readers into each adventure—ranging from a solo hike through Northern California to galloping across the fields of Ireland to a short stint with the Circus Arts learning the flying trapeze—and shares her secrets to a fuller life through traveling alone. Step by step, she demonstrates why leaving everything—and everyone—behind for a few days (or more!) is the best path to inner strength, confidence, and true self-knowledge.

(powells.com) For centuries, mariners have spun tales of gargantuan waves, 100-feet high or taller. Until recently scientists dis­missed these stories—waves that high would seem to violate the laws of physics. But in the past few decades, as a startling number of ships vanished and new evidence has emerged, oceanographers realized something scary was brewing in the planet’s waters. They found their proof in February 2000, when a British research vessel was trapped in a vortex of impossibly mammoth waves in the North Sea—including several that approached 100 feet.

As scientists scramble to understand this phenomenon, others view the giant waves as the ultimate challenge. These are extreme surfers who fly around the world trying to ride the ocean’s most destructive monsters. The pioneer of extreme surfing is the legendary Laird Hamilton, who, with a group of friends in Hawaii, figured out how to board suicidally large waves of 70 and 80 feet. Casey follows this unique tribe of peo­ple as they seek to conquer the holy grail of their sport, a 100­-foot wave.

In this mesmerizing account, the exploits of Hamilton and his fellow surfers are juxtaposed against scientists’ urgent efforts to understand the destructive powers of waves—from the tsunami that wiped out 250,000 people in the Pacific in 2004 to the 1,740-foot-wave that recently leveled part of the Alaskan coast. Like Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, The Wave brilliantly portrays human beings confronting nature at its most ferocious.

(powells.com) In 1928, defying Italy's Mussolini and the entire fascist party, aviator Umberto Nobile, undertook a daring expedition to the North Pole in Italia, one of several successful airships he had designed. The tragic crash of the airship on the ice and search for survivors was the most extensive in Arctic history, involving seven nations. Although Nobile and eight crew members survived, those lost included not only their tragic companions but searchers, including the famous explorer, Roald Amundsen. The Italia tragedy was described by The New York Times as one of the most astonishing episodes in the history of aviation.

(powells.com) The Voyager spacecraft are our farthest-flung emissaries; 11.3 billion miles away from the crew who built and still operate them, decades since their launch.

Voyager 1 left the solar system in 2012; its sister craft, Voyager 2, will do so in 2015. The fantastic journey began in 1977, before the first episode of Cosmos aired. The mission was planned as a grand tour beyond the moon; beyond Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn; and maybe even into interstellar space. The fact that it actually happened makes this humanity’s greatest space mission.

In The Interstellar Age, award-winning planetary scientist Jim Bell reveals what drove and continues to drive the members of this extraordinary team, including Ed Stone, Voyager’s chief scientist and the one-time head of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab; Charley Kohlhase, an orbital dynamics engineer who helped to design many of the critical slingshot maneuvers around planets that enabled the Voyagers to travel so far; and the geologist whose Earth-bound experience would prove of little help in interpreting the strange new landscapes revealed in the Voyagers’ astoundingly clear images of moons and planets.

Speeding through space at a mind-bending eleven miles a second, Voyager 1 is now beyond our solar system's planets. It carries with it artifacts of human civilization. By the time Voyager passes its first star in about 40,000 years, the gold record on the spacecraft, containing various music and images, including Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode, will still be playable.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
(powells.com) In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and, unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless's short life. Admitting an interest that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the drives and desires that propelled McCandless. Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.

When McCandless's innocent mistakes turn out to be irreversible and fatal, he becomes the stuff of tabloid headlines and is dismissed for his naiveté, pretensions, and hubris. He is said to have had a death wish but wanting to die is a very different thing from being compelled to look over the edge. Krakauer brings McCandless's uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows, and the peril, adversity, and renunciation sought by this enigmatic young man are illuminated with a rare understanding--and not an ounce of sentimentality. Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, Into the Wild is a tour de force. The power and luminosity of Jon Krakauer's storytelling blaze through every page.

The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless
(powells.com) In the more than twenty years since the body of Chris McCandless was discovered in the wilds of Alaska, his spellbinding story has captivated millions who have either read Jon Krakauer's iconic Into the Wild or seen Sean Penn's acclaimed film of the same name.
And yet, only one person has truly understood what motivated Chris's unconventional decision to forsake his belongings, abandon his family, and embrace the harsh wilderness. In The Wild Truth, his beloved sister Carine McCandless finally provides a deeply personal account of the many misconceptions about Chris, revealing the truth behind his fateful journey while sharing the remarkable details of her own.

Exposing the dark reality that existed behind the McCandless's seemingly idyllic home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Carine details a violent home life, one where both parents manipulated the truth about a second family — a deception that pushed Chris over the edge and set the stage for his willing departure into the wild. And though he cut off all family ties, Carine understood — through their indelible bond and some cryptic communication — what Chris was seeking.

This understanding, kept under wraps for years as Carine struggled to maintain a relationship with her parents, now comes to spectacular light in the pages of The Wild Truth. In the decades since Chris's death, Carine and her half-siblings have come together to find their own truth and build their own beauty in his absence. In each other, they've found absolution, just as Chris found absolution in the wild before he died.

Beautiful and haunting, told with candor and heartbreaking insight, The Wild Truth presents a man the world only thought they knew — and the sister who has finally found redemption in sharing the rest of their story.

(powells.com) It has been nearly three decades since Shirley MacLaine commenced her brave and public commitment to chronicling her personal quest for spiritual understanding. In testament to the endurance and vitality of her message, each of her eight legendary bestsellers — from Don't Fall Off the Mountain to My Lucky Stars — continues today to attract, dazzle, and transform countless new readers. Now Shirley is back — with her most breathtakingly powerful and unique book yet.

This is the story of a journey. It is the eagerly anticipated and altogether startling culmination of Shirley MacLaine's extraordinary — and ultimately rewarding — road through life. The riveting odyssey began with a pair of anonymous handwritten letters imploring Shirley to make a difficult pilgrimage along the Santiago de Compostela Camino in Spain. Throughout history, countless illustrious pilgrims from all over Europe have taken up the trail. It is an ancient — and allegedly enchanted — pilgrimage. People from St. Francis of Assisi and Charlemagne to Ferdinand and Isabella to Dante and Chaucer have taken the journey, which comprises a nearly 500-mile trek across highways, mountains and valleys, cities and towns, and fields. Now it would be Shirley's turn.

For Shirley, the Camino was both an intense spiritual and physical challenge. A woman in her sixth decade completing such a grueling trip on foot in thirty days at twenty miles per day was nothing short of remarkable. But even more astounding was the route she took spiritually: back thousands of years, through past lives to the very origin of the universe. Immensely gifted with intelligence, curiosity, warmth, and a profound openness to people and places outside her own experience, Shirley MacLaine is truly an American treasure. And once again, she brings her inimitable qualities of mind and heart to her writing. 

Balancing and negotiating the revelations inspired by the mysterious energy of the Camino, she endured her exhausting journey to Compostela until it gradually gave way to a far more universal voyage: that of the soul. Through a range of astonishing and liberating visions and revelations, Shirley saw into the meaning of the cosmos, including the secrets of the ancient civilizations of Atlantis and Lemuria, insights into human genesis, the essence of gender and sexuality, and the true path to higher love.  With rich insight, humility, and her trademark grace, Shirley MacLaine gently leads us on a sacred adventure toward an inexpressibly transcendent climax. The Camino promises readers the journey of a thousand lifetimes.

Take a Seat (DVD) "Take a Seat: Sharing A Ride Across America" is an inspirational documentary focused on the adventurous human spirit. The film follows British adventurer Dominic Gill as he journeys across America on a tandem bicycle with the help of ten companions, all of whom are physically disabled. Gill brings viewers into the lives of his travelers and provides an expose on the every day struggles they face while they deal with disabilities like muscular dystrophy, blindness, and Parkinson's disease. Gill shows that fervor, determination and hope can transcend physical ailments and that spirits propelled by passion can ascend any apex imaginable.
View the full documentary film here: http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi3356335129/

The Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
(powells.com) It started as a daydream. Poring over a map of the world at home one quiet Saturday afternoon, Ewan McGregor — actor and self-confessed bike nut — noticed that it was possible to ride all the way round the world, with just one short hop across the Bering Strait from Russia to Alaska. It was a revelation he couldn't get out of his head. So he picked up the phone and called Charley Boorman, his best friend, fellow actor and bike enthusiast. 'Charley,' he said. 'I think you ought to come over for dinner...'

From London to New York, Ewan and Charley chased their shadows through Europe, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia, across the Pacific to Alaska, then down through Canada and America. As the miles slipped beneath the tires of their big BMWs, their troubles started. Exhaustion, injury and accidents tested their strength. Treacherous roads, unpredictable weather and turbulent politics challenged their stamina. They were chased by paparazzi in Kazakhstan, courted by men with very large guns in the Ukraine, hassled by the police, and given bulls' testicles for supper by Mongolian nomads.

And yet despite all these obstacles they managed to ride over 20,000 miles in four months, changing their lives forever in the process. As they travelled they documented their trip, taking photographs, and writing diaries by the campfire. Long Way Round is the result of their adventures — a fascinating, frank and highly entertaining travel book about two friends riding round the world together and, against all the odds, realizing their dream.

The Long Way Round (DVD) Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman prepare to hit the road on their motorcycles in an epic journey around the world.


View the first episode here: http://www.imdb.com/video/hulu/vi832612121

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Louis L'Amour and the American West



According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, "westerns, a genre of novels and short stories, motion pictures, and television and radio shows, are set in the American West, usually in the period from the 1850s to the end of the 19th century. Though basically an American creation, the western had its counterparts in the gaucho literature of Argentina and in tales of the settlement of the Australian outback. The genre reached its greatest popularity in the early and middle decades of the 20th century and declined somewhat thereafter (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/640481/western)."

American writer Louis L'Amour  (March 22, 1908-June 10, 1988) was "the best-selling author of more than 100 books.  He was a world traveler who mined in the West, sailed aboard an East African schooner, lived with bandits in Tibet, and worked as an elephant handlers, a professional boxer, and a fruit picker before embarking on a career as a writer in the 1940s.  His books sold 200 million copies in 20 languages, and at least 30 of his books formed the basis of films.  In 1983 he became the first novelist to receive a Congressional Gold Medal, and in the following year he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/328818/Louis-LAmour)."

The Genre Reading Group met last night to discuss his life and work and explore the mystique of the American west for ourselves!


The Haunted Mesa
(powells.com) The Navajo called them the Anasazi: an enigmatic race of southwestern cliff dwellers. For centuries, the sudden disappearance of this proud and noble people has baffled historians. Summoned to a dark desert plateau by a desperate letter form an old friend, renowned investigator Mike Raglan is drawn into a world of mystery, violence, and explosive revelation. Crossing the border beyond the laws of man and nature, he will learn the astonishing legacy of the Anasazi — but not without a price. Set in the contemporary Southwest, The Haunted Mesa draws on Louis L'Amour's extensive knowledge of Indian lore and mysticism. In this extraordinary book L'Amour tells a tale of epic adventure that takes his readers across the most extraordinary frontier they have ever encountered.


Rivers West
(powells.com) His dream was to build magnificent steamboats to ply the rivers of the American frontier. But when Jean Talon began his journey westward, he stumbled upon a deadly conspiracy involving a young woman's search to find her missing brother, and a ruthless band of renegades.  Led by the brazen Baron Torville, this makeshift army of opportunists is plotting a violent takeover of the Louisiana Territory. Jean swears to find a way to stop this daring plan. If he doesn't, it will not only put an end to all his dreams; it will change the course of history and destroy the promise of the American frontier.


The Trail to Seven Pines
(powells.com) Hopalong rides into a firestorm of violence and  betrayal. On the rain-drenched trail to the  lawless town of Seven Pines, Hopalong discovers two men  -- one dead, the other badly wounded. Returning  with medical help, Hopalong finds the wounded man  has been shot through the temple. Who would  commit such a murder? To find out, Hopalong hires on  at Bob Ronson's Rocking R Ranch. There he learns  that more than a thousand cattle have been run off  by men keeping one scheming eye on the ranch and  the other on the monthly stagecoach shipments of  gold. Hopalong is determined to stop those  responsible. But even the best gunfighter needs men he  can trust to watch his back, men willing to risk  their lives to do what's right. With their help,  Hopalong fights to save the Rocking R, only to  find himself the target of a ruthless gunman in a  life-and-death struggle for frontier justice.


Last of the Breed
(powells.com) This is the compelling story of U.S. Air Force Major Joe Mack, a man born out of time. When his experimental aircraft is forced down in Russia and he escapes a Soviet prison camp, he must call upon the ancient skills of his Indian forebears to survive the vast Siberian wilderness. Only one route lies open to Mack: the path of his ancestors, overland to the Bering Strait and across the sea to America. But in pursuit is a legendary tracker, the Yakut native Alekhin, who knows every square foot of the icy frontier—and who knows that to trap his quarry he must think like a Sioux.


Beyond the Great Snow Mountains
(powells.com) From the American West to the Siberian coast, from Hollywood to the boxing ring, here are timeless tales of war, mystery, romance, crime, and punishment as only Louis L'Amour can tell them.  These stories are vintage L'Amour: A hard-bitten cattle driver is pitted against a man trying to steal his woman, the disappearance of a thousand head of cattle, and a plot to frame him for murder....A private eye visits a remote mining town on a case involving a sexy widow, an uneasy lawman, and a fortune in gold buried in an abandoned mine shaft....A country boy with a good right hand must fight not only his vicious opponent in the ring but the ruthless gangsters who'll do anything for profit-even commit cold-blooded murder....A young woman stranded in an isolated harbor must survive the wilderness and a brutal battle of wits with a sadistic fortune hunter.  Here is the trademark blend of action, suspense, historical detail, and unforgettable characters that have made Louis L'Amour one of the world's most extraordinary writers.


Hondo
(powells.com) He was etched by the desert’s howling winds, a big, broad-shouldered man who knew the ways of the Apache and the ways of staying alive. She was a woman alone raising a young son on a remote Arizona ranch. And between Hondo Lane and Angie Lowe was the warrior Vittoro, whose people were preparing to rise against the white men. Now the pioneer woman, the gunman, and the Apache warrior are caught in a drama of love, war, and honor.


Hondo (DVD, 1953)
(rottentomatoes.com) Hondo is so "perfect" a John Ford western that many people assume it was directed by John Ford--or at the very least, Andrew McLaglen. Actually the director was suspense expert John Farrow, who worked with the "Duke" only twice in his career (the second film was an oddball war drama, The Sea Chase [55]). In Hondo, John Wayne plays a hard-bitten cavalry scout who is humanized by frontierswoman Geraldine Page and her young son (Lee Aaker, star of TV's Rin Tin Tin). Try as he might, Wayne can't convince Page to move off her land in anticipation of an Apache attack. He leaves her ranch, only to be ambushed by desperado Leo Gordon--who happens to be Page's long-absent husband. Having killed Gordon, Hondo returns to the ranch to protect Page from the Indians, and to rekindle the woman's hesitant love for him. The climactic attack sequence is enhanced by Hondo's 3-D photography, one of the few truly effective utilizations of this much-maligned process. Long unavailable thanks to the labyrinthine legal tangles of the John Wayne estate, Hondo was finally released to videotape in the early 1990s. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

I challenge you to read a western this summer!
Holley

Thursday, April 30, 2015

True Crime

The next meeting will be Tuesday, May 26th at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion will be the novels of Louis L’Amour.  Pick any of his books and come tell us about it!  Due to a scheduling conflict, our June meeting will be canceled.  On the bright side, you’ll have two whole months to select and read the perfect book on Real Life Adventures for the July meeting.  I’ll be bringing a selection of those for your perusal to the May meeting.

(amazon) During Prohibition, while Al Capone was rising to worldwide prominence as Public Enemy Number One, the townspeople of rural Templeton, Iowa—population just 428—were busy with a bootlegging empire of their own. Led by Joe Irlbeck, the whip-smart and gregarious son of a Bavarian immigrant, the outfit of farmers, small merchants, and even the church monsignor worked together to create a whiskey so excellent it was ordered by name: "Templeton rye."

Just as Al Capone had Eliot Ness, Templeton’s bootleggers had as their own enemy a respected Prohibition agent from the adjacent county named Benjamin Franklin Wilson. Wilson was ardent in his fight against alcohol, and he chased Irlbeck for over a decade. But Irlbeck was not Capone, and Templeton would not be ruled by violence like Chicago.

Gentlemen Bootleggers tells a never-before-told tale of ingenuity, bootstrapping, and perseverance in one small town, showcasing a group of immigrants and first-generation Americans who embraced the ideals of self-reliance, dynamism, and democratic justice. It relies on previously classified Prohibition Bureau investigation files, federal court case files, extensive newspaper archive research, and a recently disclosed interview with kingpin Joe Irlbeck. Unlike other Prohibition-era tales of big-city gangsters, it provides an important reminder that bootlegging wasn’t only about glory and riches, but could be in the service of a higher goal: producing the best whiskey money could buy.

(amazon) In an era that witnessed the rise of celebrity outlaws like Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger was the most famous and flamboyant of them all. Reports on the man and his misdeeds - spiced with accounts of his swashbuckling bravado and cool daring - provided an America worn down by the Great Depression with a salacious mix of sex and violence that proved irresistible. In Dillinger's Wild Ride, Elliott J. Gorn provides a riveting account of the year between 1933 and 1934, when the Dillinger gang pulled over a dozen bank jobs and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars. A dozen men - police, FBI agents, gangsters, and civilians - lost their lives in the rampage, and American newspapers breathlessly followed every shooting and jail-break. As Dillinger's wild year unfolded, the tale grew larger and larger in newspapers and newsreels, and even today, Dillinger is the subject of pulp literature, serious poetry and fiction, and film. What is the power of his story? Why has it lingered so long? Who was John Dillinger? Gorn illuminates the significance of Dillinger's tremendous fame and the endurance of his legacy, arguing that he represented an American fascination with primitive freedom against social convention. Dillinger's story has much to tell us about our enduring fascination with outlaws, crime and violence, about the complexity of our transition from rural to urban life, and about the transformation of America during the Great Depression.

(amazon) In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his "family" of devoted young women and men. What was his hold over them? And what was the motivation behind such savagery? In the public imagination, over time, the case assumed the proportions of myth. The murders marked the end of the sixties and became an immediate symbol of the dark underside of that era.

Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, and this book is his enthralling account of how he built his case from what a defense attorney dismissed as only "two fingerprints and Vince Bugliosi." The meticulous detective work with which the story begins, the prosecutor's view of a complex murder trial, the reconstruction of the philosophy Manson inculcated in his fervent followers... these elements make for a true crime classic. ?Helter Skelter ?is not merely a spellbinding murder case and courtroom drama but also, in the words of ?The New Republic?, a "social document of rare importance." 50 pages of black-and-white photographs

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
(amazon) On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. 
As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

(amazon) Fatal Vision is the electrifying true story of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, the handsome, Princeton-educated physician convicted of savagely slaying his young pregnant wife and two small children, murders he vehemently denies committing.  Bestselling author Joe McGinniss chronicles every aspect of this horrifying and intricate crime, and probes the life and psyche of the magnetic, all-American Jeffrey MacDonald, a golden boy who seemed destined to have it all. The result is a penetration to the heart of darkness that enshrouded one of the most complex criminal cases ever to capture the attention of the American public. It is a haunting, stunningly suspenseful work that no reader will be able to forget.

(amazon) The "Hillside Strangler" became an everyday headline that frightened Los Angeles for a year or so in the late 1970's. During that year, bodies of young women started showing up on the hillsides around the city. But the horror waned beside the revelations that came to light in what became the longest criminal trial in American history--BEFORE O. J. Simpson's 1994 trial--and one of the most controversial The Hillside Strangler was thought to be one person with a real fast pace in killing. With TWO OF A KIND, Darcy O'Brien gives the inside story and is the first book to make the shocking disclosure that "the Hillside Strangler" was not one man, but two, and not only that -- they were were cousins! In Mr. O'Brien's riveting story examines the relationship between the murderers and the drive behind their hideously evil crimes. It tells the entire story of the Hillside Stranglers as it has never been told before. He begins with the stranglers themselves who just decided one night out of boredom that they hated women and wanted to kill them (even as one strangler was living with a pregnant girlfriend and hiding the truth of his killing spree from her).

(amazon) A portrait of a tortured young man, arrested for a series of kidnappings and rapes, explores the world of a multiple personality, whose traumatic childhood shattered his mind into twenty-four distinct personalities.  Daniel Keyes is also the author of Flowers for Algernon.

Bitter Harvest by Ann Rule
(amazon) In this harrowing New York Times bestseller, Ann Rule is at her masterful best as she winnows horrific truths from the ashes of what seemed like paradise in Prairie Village, Kansas. Rule probes the case of Debora Green, a doctor and a loving mother who seemed to epitomize the dreams of the American heartland. A small-town girl with a genius IQ, she achieved an enviable life: her own medical practice, a handsome physician husband, three perfect children, and an opulent home in an exclusive Kansas City suburb. But when a raging fire destroyed that home and took two lives, the trail of clues led investigators to a stunning conclusion. Piece by piece, Ann Rule digs beneath this placid Midwestern facade to unveil a disturbing portrait of strangely troubled marriages, infidelity, desperation, suicide, and escalating acts of revenge that forever changed dozens of lives.

(amazon) Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty,early morning hours of May 2, 1981.  Was it murder or self-defense?  For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares.  John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction.  Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case.

It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the "soul of pampered self-absorption"; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight.  These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else. 

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a sublime and seductive reading experience.  Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city has become a modern classic.

(amazon) Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. He now shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders, taking readers inside isolated American communities where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God.

At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, and unyielding faith. Along the way he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.

Cruel Death by M. William Phelps
(amazon) It was Memorial Day weekend, the start of the summer season. Thousands headed to Ocean City, Maryland, to enjoy its scenic beaches, lively boardwalk, and trendy nightclubs. Among the bright-spirited vacationers was a couple with a much darker idea of fun. Erica Sifrit, a former honor student, was packing a gun in her Coach bag. Her husband, B.J., an ex-Navy SEAL, was trained in violence. What started as a chance encounter with another couple ended with two dismembered victims buried in a Delaware landfill. M. William Phelps updates this modern-day "Bonnie and Clyde" saga to create a haunting account of money, madness, sex, and murder. . . 

(amazon) At about 9 oclock on the morning of November 9, 1971, soon after sending her three children off to school, Helen List sat in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee. She was still in her nightgown and slippers.John List came up behind her and put a 9mm German-made Steyr automatic pistol to the side of her head and fired once. She died instantly. The bullet smashed into the opposite wall... John made his way up the stairs to the third floor where his 85-year old mother, Alma, wearing a housedress, was preparing breakfast in her efficiency kitchen She was standing near the storage room that adjoined her kitchen when a 9mm bullet ripped through the side of her scull. Alma List was dead before her body crumpled in a heap on the floor, the righteous carnage had begun.

True Crime Authors of Note:


Remember these TV shows?

America’s Most Wanted, hosted by John Walsh, dramatized true crimes in hopes that viewers could give information leading to the solving of crimes.  It aired for 23 years, from 1988 to 2011.

Unsolved Mysteries, hosted by Robert Stack, investigated mysteries of all kinds ranging from murders to UFO sightings.  It also aired for 23 years, from 1987 to 2010.

Bonnie and Clyde (DVD, 1967)
(rottentomatoes.com) Producer/star Warren Beatty had to convince Warner Bros. to finance this film, which went on to become the studio's second-highest grosser. It also caused major controversy by redefining violence in cinema and casting its criminal protagonists as sympathetic anti-heroes. Based loosely on the true exploits of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker during the 30s, the film begins as Clyde (Beatty) tries to steal the car of Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway)'s mother. Bonnie is excited by Clyde's outlaw demeanor, and he further stimulates her by robbing a store in her presence. Clyde steals a car, with Bonnie in tow, and their legendary crime spree begins. The two move from town to town, pulling off small heists, until they join up with Clyde's brother Buck (Gene Hackman), his shrill wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), and a slow-witted gas station attendant named C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard). The new gang robs a bank and Clyde is soon painted in the press as a Depression-era Robin Hood when he allows one bank customer to hold onto his money. Soon the police are on the gang's trail and they are constantly on the run, even kidnapping a Texas Ranger (Denver Pyle) and setting him adrift on a raft, handcuffed, after he spits in Bonnie's face when she kisses him. That same ranger leads a later raid on the gang that leaves Buck dying, Blanche captured, and both Clyde and Bonnie injured. The ever-loyal C.W. takes them to his father's house. C.W.'s father disaproves his son's affiliation with gangsters and enters a plea bargain with the Texas Rangers. A trap is set that ends in one of the bloodiest death scenes in cinematic history. The film made stars out of Beatty and Dunaway, and it also featured the screen debut of Gene Wilder as a mortician briefly captured by the gang. Its portrayal of Bonnie and Clyde as rebels who empathized with the poor working folks of the 1930s struck a chord with the counterculture of the 1960s and helped generate a new, young audience for American movies that carried over into Hollywood's renewal of the 1970s. Its combination of sex and violence with dynamic stars, social relevance, a traditional Hollywood genre, and an appeal to hip young audiences set the pace for many American movies to come. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi

Dead Man Walking (DVD, 1995)
Tim Robbins' second directorial effort (after the political satire Bob Roberts) was this drama based on a true story, which explores the issue of capital punishment. Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) is a nun and teacher living in rural Louisiana. One day, she receives a letter from Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn), who is scheduled to be executed soon for the rape and murder of two teenagers. After meeting Matthew, Sister Helen agrees to serve as spiritual counselor and see what she can do to stay the execution. However, Matthew's claims of innocence seem shaky at best, and it's clear he's a reprehensible, amoral racist. When it becomes obvious that Matthew's sentence will be carried out, Sister Helen offers what comfort she can to Matthew, but also tries to guide him to an open admission of the extent of his crimes and an acceptance of divine forgiveness, telling him "I want the last face you see to be the face of love." Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for her performance as Sister Prejean, and Sean Penn was similarly nominated for Best Actor as Matthew. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

The Girl Next Door (DVD, 1997)
(rottentomatoes) Based on the harrowingbest-seller by author Jack Ketchum, director Gregory Wilson's The Girl Next Door presents a fictionalized account of the shocking ordeal endured by Sylvia Likens -- an innocent Indiana teen who was systematically tortured, raped, and murdered by a suburban divorcée and a group of neighborhood children in 1965. Shortly after losing their parents in a deadly car accident, Meg Laughlin (Blythe Auffarth) and her younger sister, Susan (Madeline Taylor), are sent to live in the Indiana home of Ruth Chandler (Blanche Baker) and her three sons, Willie (Graham Patrick Martin), Donny (Benjamin Ross Kaplan), and Ralphie (Austin Williams). Upon arriving in the quiet suburban neighborhood, Meg quickly forges a warm bond with local neighbor boy David Moran (Daniel Manche). Strangely, Ruth seems to harbor some sort of unknown grudge against her pretty young charge, and it isn't long before events in the Chandler home begin to take an ominous turn. Now, as Ruth Chandler begins her slow descent into madness, the basement of a typical middle-class home is about to become the scene of a crime that would shock and repulse an entire nation.

An American Crime (DVD, 2007)
(rottentomatoes) The true story of a young girl held captive by her insane caretaker comes to life in this disturbing film from Ella Enchanted director Tommy O'Haver. Hard Candy's Ellen Page stars as Sylvia Likens a teenager who, along with her sister, is left to live temporarily with seemingly-mild-mannered housewife Gertrude Baniszewski, played by Catherine Keener. Unfortunately for Sylvia, Gertrude soon snaps and holds her hostage in harsh conditions until the former's eventual death. Bradley Whitford costars as the prosecutor tasked with trying the case against Baniszewski.

(amazon) In the horrifying annals of American crime, the infamous names of brutal killers such as Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy, and Berkowitz are writ large in the imaginations of a public both horrified and hypnotized by their monstrous, murderous acts. But for every celebrity psychopath who’s gotten ink for spilling blood, there’s a bevy of all-but-forgotten homicidal fiends studding the bloody margins of U.S. history. The law gave them their just desserts, but now the hugely acclaimed author of The Serial Killer Files and The Whole Death Catalog gives them their dark due in this absolutely riveting true-crime treasury. Among America’s most cold-blooded you’ll meet
 
• Robert Irwin, “The Mad Sculptor”: He longed to use his carving skills on the woman he loved—but had to settle for making short work of her mother and sister instead.
 
• Peter Robinson, “The Tell-Tale Heart Killer”: It took two days and four tries for him to finish off his victim, but no time at all for keen-eyed cops to spot the fatal flaw in his floor plan.
 
• Anton Probst, “The Monster in the Shape of a Man”: The ax-murdering immigrant’s systematic slaughter of all eight members of a Pennsylvania farm family matched the savagery of the Manson murders a century later.
 
• Edward H. Ruloff, “The Man of Two Lives”: A genuine Jekyll and Hyde, his brilliant scholarship disguised his bloodthirsty brutality, and his oversized brain gave new meaning to “mastermind.”
 
Spurred by profit, passion, paranoia, or perverse pleasure, these killers—the Witch of Staten Island, the Smutty Nose Butcher, the Bluebeard of Quiet Dell, and many others—span three centuries and a host of harrowing murder methods. Dramatized in the pages of penny dreadfuls, sensationalized in tabloid headlines, and immortalized in “murder ballads” and classic fiction by Edgar Allan Poe and Theodore Dreiser, the demonic denizens of Psycho USA may be long gone to the gallows—but this insidiously irresistible slice of gothic Americana will ensure that they’ll no longer be forgotten.

(amazon) Here is the ultimate book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the non-name Anonymous, by the writer the Huffington Post says “knows all of Anonymous’ deepest, darkest secrets.”

The narrative brims with details unearthed from within a notoriously mysterious subculture, whose semi-legendary tricksters—such as Topiary, tflow, Anachaos, and Sabu—emerge as complex, diverse, politically and culturally sophisticated people. Propelled by years of chats and encounters with a multitude of hackers, including imprisoned activist Jeremy Hammond and the double agent who helped put him away, Hector Monsegur, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy is filled with insights into the meaning of digital activism and little understood facets of culture in the Internet age, including the history of “trolling,” the ethics and metaphysics of hacking, and the origins and manifold meanings of “the lulz.”

(amazon)   Future Crimes provides a mind-blowing glimpse into the dark side of technological innovation and the unintended consequences of our connected world. Goodman offers a way out with clear steps we must take to survive the progress unfolding before us. Provocative, thrilling, and ultimately empowering, Future Crimes will serve as an urgent call to action that shows how we can take back control over our own devices and harness technology’s tremendous power for the betterment of humanity—before it’s too late.

Imitation Game (DVD, 2014)
(rottentomatoes) During the winter of 1952, British authorities entered the home of mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to investigate a reported burglary. They instead ended up arresting Turing himself on charges of 'gross indecency', an accusation that would lead to his devastating conviction for the criminal offense of homosexuality - little did officials know, they were actually incriminating the pioneer of modern-day computing. Famously leading a motley group of scholars, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers, he was credited with cracking the so-called unbreakable codes of Germany's World War II Enigma machine. An intense and haunting portrayal of a brilliant, complicated man, The Imitation Game follows a genius who under nail-biting pressure helped to shorten the war and, in turn, save thousands of lives. (c) Weinstein

(amazon) The Day of the Locust meets The Devil in the White City and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this juicy, untold Hollywood story: an addictive true tale of ambition, scandal, intrigue, murder, and the creation of the modern film industry.
By 1920, the movies had suddenly become America’s new favorite pastime, and one of the nation’s largest industries. Never before had a medium possessed such power to influence. Yet Hollywood’s glittering ascendancy was threatened by a string of headline-grabbing tragedies—including the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a legendary crime that has remained unsolved until now.
In a fiendishly involving narrative, bestselling Hollywood chronicler William J. Mann draws on a rich host of sources, including recently released FBI files, to unpack the story of the enigmatic Taylor and the diverse cast that surrounded him—including three beautiful, ambitious actresses; a grasping stage mother; a devoted valet; and a gang of two-bit thugs, any of whom might have fired the fatal bullet. And overseeing this entire landscape of intrigue was Adolph Zukor, the brilliant and ruthless founder of Paramount, locked in a struggle for control of the industry and desperate to conceal the truth about the crime. Along the way, Mann brings to life Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties: a sparkling yet schizophrenic town filled with party girls, drug dealers, religious zealots, newly-minted legends and starlets already past their prime—a dangerous place where the powerful could still run afoul of the desperate.
A true story recreated with the suspense of a novel, Tinseltown is the work of a storyteller at the peak of his powers—and the solution to a crime that has stumped detectives and historians for nearly a century.

UPDATE!!!  Yesterday, April 29th, Tinseltown won the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime!!!

(amazon) London, 1913. An exquisite strand of pale pink pearls, worth more than the Hope Diamond, has been bought by a Hatton Garden broker, capturing the attention of both jewelers and thieves. In transit to London from Paris, the necklace vanishes without a trace.
 
Joseph Grizzard, “the King of Fences,” is the leader of a vast gang of thieves in London’s East End. Having risen from the deadly streets to become a wealthy family man, Grizzard still cannot resist the sport of crime, and the pearl necklace proves an irresistible challenge.
 
Inspector Alfred Ward has joined the brand-new division of the Metropolitan Police known as “detectives.” Having caught some of the great murderers of Victorian London, Ward is now charged with finding the missing pearls and the thief who stole them.
 
In the spirit of The Great Train Robbery, this is the true story of a psychological cat-and-mouse game. Thoroughly researched and compellingly colorful, The Great Pearl Heist is a gripping narrative account of this little-known, yet extraordinary crime.

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin
(amazon) The action begins in October of 1875, as Secret Service agents raid the Fulton, Illinois, workshop of master counterfeiter Ben Boyd. Soon after Boyd is hauled off to prison, members of his counterfeiting ring gather in the back room of a smoky Chicago saloon to discuss how to spring their ringleader. Their plan: grab Lincoln's body from its Springfield tomb, stash it in the sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and demand, as a ransom, the release of Ben Boyd --and $200,000 in cash. From here, the action alternates between the conspirators, the Secret Service agents on their trail, and the undercover agent moving back and forth between the two groups. Along the way readers get glimpses into the inner workings of counterfeiting, grave robbing, detective work, and the early days of the Secret Service. The plot moves toward a wild climax as robbers and lawmen converge at Lincoln's tomb on election night: November 7, 1876.

The Birmingham Horrors by William Stanley Hoole)
(The old-fashioned subtitle) Being a complete and accurate account of Richard R. Hawes’s murder of his wife, Emma, and daughters, May and Irene, in Birmingham, Alabama, on December 3-4, 1888, and his casting their iron-weighted bodies into the lakes at East Lake and Lakeview, together with the subsequent story of the Great Birmingham Riot of December 8 during which an attempt was made by two thousand irate citizens to storm the jail and lynch the accused murderer, resulting in the massacre of a dozen citizens and the wounding of many more, and the mustering out of the Alabama State Militia, and the eventual trial, conviction, and public hanging of Hawes on February 28, 1890.  (This is a 1980 reprint of a late 1800’s original publication)

Bugsy (DVD, 1991)
(rottentomatoes) Brutal and batty as a March hare, notorious gangster Bugsy Siegel played a crucial role in making Las Vegas the gambling capitol of the United States. This arresting biopic starring Warren Beatty offers a remarkably cliché-free look at the mobster's life and times.

American Crime Story (Forthcoming TV show)

Slated to debut in October 2015, this new show from the creators of, and following the same format as, American Horror Story, plans to focus each 10-episode season on a different real-life crime. The first season will tackle the O.J. Simpson trial.

What are YOU reading?