Devious Tales – New e-Book Coming Soon

devious-tales-book-cover-final-1-of-1My latest e-book of short stories is nearing completion. I am happy to share some information including the book cover and title. The collection will consist of twelve tasty tales of twisted love, revenge, money, lust and murder. Here are the titles of the stories included:

Holcomb Bridge

Late Night Diner

Smart Like Dillinger

The Old Man

Amanda

Call Waiting

An Anniversary Surprise

An Almost Perfect Woman

An Office Romance

Life Lesson

 A Merry Little  Christmas Gift

The Organic Garden

That’s it for now. Will keep you posted.

 

Coming Soon to TCM

golddiggers-of-1933Two films featured in my book, Lessons in the Dark, will be coming soon to TCM. Tonight at 10:15PM (Eastern) the superb Great Depression era musical Gold Diggers on 1933. The film stars Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell along with an excellent supporting cast that includes Aline McMahon, Ned Sparks, Guy Kibbee and Billy Barty.

grapes-of-wrath-3On Friday (Feb. 10th) at 8PM (Eastern) don’t miss John Ford’s masterful production of John Steinbeck’s classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Henry Fonda stars as Tom Joad. The cast includes Academy Award winner Jane Darwell and John Carradine. Look for a very young Darryl Hickman (Dobie Gillis) in a small role.

You can read more about both of these films plus others in Lessons in the Dark. Below I have reprinted the Introduction to the book.

Introduction – Lessons in the Dark

Why these films, why this book and why this collection you ask? It’s simple enough to answer. A few years ago I did a series of articles for Halo-17, a now defunct Australian music and arts website. One of the editors discovered my blog, I assume liked it, and asked if I would be interested in writing a column about classic films. The only caveat was that I had to make the films I wrote about connect to what was happening in today’s world. I needed to show readers how these old black and white films were still relevant. Illustrate how history repeats itself and there are lessons to be learned even from a film that is seventy years old.

   Well, the requirement set forth by the folks at Halo-17 turned out to be simpler than I thought. As I began to look at films from this perspective I realized many films whether twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years old or more remain relevant. They had something to say about us today as well as years ago. Life and art repeat themselves. As the poet, novelist and philosopher, George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” Classic films help us remember the past, both the good and the bad. Sometimes they even predict the future as it did in Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (1957) and Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), both which forecast the reality TV and political circus we are forced to endure today. A film like Black Legion (1937) teaches us about hating someone who’s different, how people get sucked into hatred or blaming immigrants for taking jobs from “real Americans.” Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of Will (1935) presented Adolph Hitler as Germany’s savior, a leader who would bring glory back to Germany by once again making it a great power! This Nazi rhetoric, the fear mongering, is awfully familiar to what we hear today from plastic gods with simplistic solutions promising to make America great again as they feed on the hate.

This collection of essays is divided into various sections focusing on specific themes. Each contains essays on films. Though “old” they speak about or reflect on the times we are living in today. Every one of these films remains pertinent to our current lives. Not all are great cinematically, yet there are lessons or messages to be learned. Some films are more direct in their ideas, others are more understated. There are even a few films that put forth a message or point of view for most of the film and then reverse course in the final moments. Why? Censorship sometimes exposes its ugly head or maybe the filmmakers or the studios got cold feet. Whatever the reason, it’s all part of what makes these films fascinating and worth watching and discussing.

    Part One looks at films from or about the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  As we continue to come out of our recent Great Recession that has been hanging over us since 2008, one can read into many of these films the similarities, the hard times and uncertainty we have all recently endured. In Part Two there are films exploring the absurdities of war and its effects on the men and women on the front line and back at home. Part Three contains a couple of films that reveal the influences of the news media on our lives. Part Four takes a look at social injustice. In Part Five we look at films about discrimination. In Part Six we see how the pre-code era gave us a look at tough, strong, independent and progressive women. Finally, in Part Seven, a section that is a catch all. It contains a variety of topics that we still deal with and affect our lives today.

   “Old” films are not just nostalgic. They entertain, or at least attempt to, however, they are also avenues for learning and a passageway to take a look at ourselves as we were then and are now. Movies hold up a mirror to both our past, our lives today and our future. We can see how far we have come; the mistakes that we made, the choices we made, both the good and the bad. Hopefully we are able to learn, realize the bad and not repeat them.

   The majority of these essays first appeared on my blog, Twenty Four Frames. I began the blog almost eight years ago, like many others, as a place to share my love of movies. The blog has evolved over time as I believe I have myself. During a lifetime of watching movies I have discovered new roads to travel and lessons learned. I hope you, the reader, will too.

Jules Dassin’s Brute Force on TCM Tonight!

brute_force-33Burt Lancaster stars in the brutally powerful prison drama, Brute Force, showing on TCM tonight at 10:15PM (Eastern time). The Jules Dassin directed film is a strong indictment of the prison system for its corruptness and failures to rehabilitate.

Along with Lancaster, the cast includes Hume Cronyn, Charles Bickford, Sam Levene, Ann Blyth, Howard Duff  and Yvonne DeCarlo. Set your DVR, you won’t be disappointed.

Read about Brute Force and other films including, The Grapes of Wrath, I Am a Fugitive on a Chain Gang, Ace in the Hole, The Americanization of Emily, A Face in the Crowd, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and more in my e-book, LESSONS IN THE DARK. Available on Amazon. Just click on the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/Lessons-Dark-John-Greco-ebook/dp/B01CC0TWLS/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Lessons in the Dark Cover-Small-003

 

 

 

Original Short Story: A Merry Little Christmas Gift

The mall was jam packed with holiday shoppers. Christmas music from the likes of Perry Como to Elvis to Brad Paisley and the latest rapper blared out in no particular order. With only three shopping days left before the big day, last minute shoppers were scurrying all over from one shop to another. The line of young kids waiting to tell Santa the list of toys they wanted, no it was more like demanded, to see under the tree was staggering. It was the best time of the year.

 I was standing just inside the entrance way to Jordan’s Jewel Factory, one of those large chain stores that clog up space in most of America’s malls these days. In jewelry stores it’s not unusual to see beautiful young women. If they are not rich and buying the diamonds, they are looking and wishing they could. Hoping to find some kind of satisfaction by just looking at the necklaces, rings, earrings and other accessories. That in itself is a common occurrence. What was uncommon happened when my eyes caught the attention of this one young woman. Yes, she was beautiful. That was obvious even from the distance between us. However, I was more interested in how quickly she picked up a particular necklace, slipped it into her coat pocket and dashed out of the store disappearing into the crowded mall. She did it with such precision, grace and speed that the employees behind the counter didn’t realize the necklace was gone until it was too late.

She didn’t quite disappear. I moved quickly myself following her as soon as she left the store. I caught up with her as she was heading toward the mall exit. I gently placed a hand on her arm.

“Excuse me a minute, miss,” I said.

She froze, but kept her back to me.

I walked around her so I could face her directly.

“We need to have a little talk. Could we just walk over to the side here so we are out of the way.” I said.

“I don’t talk to men I don’t know,” she said with a chill in her voice that would have given Frosty the Snowman a shiver down his spine.

“Well, I think this time you will.”

Her eyes were darting around until she found what she was looking for. “There’s a security guard right over there. I have no problem calling him over if you don’t leave me alone right now,” she said.

I followed her eyes and sure enough there was a security guard standing by the crowded food court. He was looking right at us.

“Miss, we just need to have a little talk,” I said, “No need to…”

Before I could finish, she waved the security guard over. In a moment the six foot two or so guard was between us.

“Everything okay here?” he asked.

Before she could get another word out, I said, “It’s okay, Damon. This young lady and I are just having a little talk.”

She looked at me and then at Damon.

“Yes. I’m sorry… I just.”

“Thanks Damon,” I interceded. “If we need you, I will give you a call.”

“Yes sir.”

With that, Damon moved on walking slowly away from us and back toward the crowded food court.

“You’re a cop?”

“Retired cop. Now I’m head of security here at the mall,” I said.

“What do you want?” she said.

“I was in the jewelry store at the same time as you.”

“So,” she said, keeping her cool.

 “I saw what you did.”

“I didn’t do anything!” she said defiantly.

I managed to steer her away to one of the few spots in the mall where there wasn’t a crowd of Christmas shoppers. I stared at her for a moment. She was only about twenty-three or so, very attractive with shoulder length brown hair and green eyes.

“You don’t look like the typical jewel thief,” I said.

Her face remained frozen. She was still trying to tough it out.

“What are you accusing me of?”

“Why don’t we just drop the pretense? I was there. I saw everything. Just empty your coat pocket, the right one specifically.”

She was trapped and she finally gave in to the inevitable. She pulled the necklace out of her pocket. I took it from her.

“Nice.” Must be worth a couple of hundred bucks,” I said.

“Seven hundred,” She said.

I smiled. “I see you do your homework.”

“Let’s see some I.D.,” I said.

She pulled out her wallet from her handbag and handed me her driver’s license. I put the necklace in my pocket for safekeeping and examined her license.

“Julia Ross?” I asked. I pulled out my cellphone and snapped a photo of the license. I then handed it back to her.

“Look, I’m sorry, really sorry. Isn’t there some way we can make this go away?” she said. “We could go somewhere quiet, somewhere private, my car and…”

“Miss Ross, or is it Ms. Ross. I am a married man with two beautiful kids. In thirty-five years of marriage, I never, not once, cheated on my wife.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say anything to upset you.”

“Do you have a record?” I asked. “Don’t lie because I can easily check it out and I will. Remember I have a photo of your license.

“No, no, I don’t. I have never been in any kind of trouble.”

I smiled. “You know, I’m not surprised. I was watching you for a while in the store and you’re pretty smooth. You must have gotten away with plenty of good stuff in the past. You just knew when to make the snatch and split without anyone noticing. That is, except for me, of course. I am pretty good myself at my job.

“I know…couldn’t we just let this go? Just this one time,” She asked.

“You’re young and you have got your entire life ahead of you,” I said.  “A criminal record could really screw your life up.”

“I’m really, really sorry,” she said.

“I don’t like people stealing stuff on my watch. It pisses me off. Especially at this time of the year. Families are out there shopping. Looking for the right gift. Working their way through the crowds. That’s why I’m out here. As head of security, I’m usually not out here pounding the beat so to speak. But the holidays bring out more lowlife’s and crooks than usual so I put myself out here too. Another pair of eyes for the holidays.”

She was shaking a bit now and on the verge of tears. “I’m so sorry, please…”

“Well,” I sighed, “as it stands now, no real harm has been done. I got the jewelry back, so therefore you didn’t steal anything which means I have no reason to arrest you.”

She looked up at me in shock. “Really? Oh, God, thank you so much.”

“I guess I am getting soft. Maybe it’s my old age. Maybe it’s the holiday season, I don’t know. I just don’t want to see a pretty young thing like you get in so much trouble that would ruin your life.”

Oh, thank you so, so much!”

“You’ve got to promise me something though,” I said.

“Anything, anything. What is it?” She said.

“You’re not going to do this anymore,” I said.

“Yes, yes, I promise. Never again,” She said.

I knew that was a lie. Once a thief, always a thief.

“And if you do it again… do it somewhere else other than my fuckin’ mall!”

She looked at me. A bit in shock. Not sure how to respond.

Merry Christmas,” I smiled.

“Merry Christmas,” she smiled back and took off through the exit door and out into the snow.

I felt good. I gave the kid a break. Why not, it’s the holidays. Hopefully, she takes my advice and stops her little crime spree or at least stays away from my mall. I looked around at the crowds. Yep, it was only three days before Christmas and the place was packed. Frank Sinatra was now on the sound system singing, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I put my hands in my pockets. That’s when I remembered I still had the necklace. I smiled and thought, yes it will be a merry little Christmas. The wife is gonna love this!

A Merry Little Christmas Gift is part of my new collection of short stories that will be published as an e-book in 2017. Keep an eye out for further details.

Hollywood on Hollywood: New E-Book from CMBA

I am a contributor to the new ebook, Hollywood on Hollywood: Ten Films About Tinseltown from the Classic Movie Blog Assn. (CMBA). Ten articles on classics like Sunset Blvd  and What Price, Hollywood to more recent films like L.A. Confidential and The Player.

hollywood

The book is available on both Amazon (.99 cents) and Smashwords (free PDF file). All proceeds from the Amazon sales are donated to Film Preservation. Links below.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M73000L/ref=cm_sw_su_dp

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/676995

 

 

I Am a Fugitive on TCM

img_1107The classic pre-code prison drama, “I Am A Fugitive From A  Chain Gang” will be showing on TCM tomorrow morning at 6:15AM eastern time. Be sure to set your DVR.

You can read more about it in my  e-book “Lessons in the Dark.” Available on Amazon.com. Click on the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/Lessons-Dark-John-Greco-ebook/dp/B01CC0TWLS/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Review of Film Noir At Twenty Four Frames Per Second

book-cover_dsc_0583-003Ivan G. Shreve Jr. of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear gave a fabulous review of my e-book. You can read it here!

http://thrillingdaysofyesteryear.blogspot.com/2016/09/book-review-film-noir-at-twenty-four.html

…and you can buy it here!

https://www.amazon.com/FIlm-Noir-Twenty-Frames-Second-ebook/dp/B00JZCDPEW/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8#nav-subnav