Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Last Post of the Year

…and what a year it’s been for me.
Last year, as December was closing out and 2010 loomed before us, I wasn’t optimistic about the future. A few years ago I’d made a sort of bargain with myself that, if I hadn’t made any real progress in my writing career by the time I was 44, I would really begin to entertain the idea of hanging it all up and learning to be content with an existence as an office drone or whatever.
I got in, just under the wire.
‘10 saw the publication of my first truly professional short story sale (that is, one that actually paid a substantial amount of money). It also saw the sale of my first novel, The Bastard Hand, to a publisher I respected. Both of these things happened right on top of each other. Years of work, of honing my craft and baring my soul, finally paid off.
That alone would have made 2010 a year to remember for me, but that wasn’t all. Over the course of the year I found myself with many new friends (albeit of the electronic, interwebbies sort) who shared similar passions and formed an interesting and amazingly supportive network-- a sort of Noir Underground. Writers, critics, bloggers, readers. You all know who you are. The interest these people took in my work, the enthusiasm and kindness they displayed, really floored me and boosted my confidence during a strange and transitional time.
I deeply appreciate all of you and feel amazingly fortunate to know you. Thanks.
Starting next year, this blog will begin to focus more specifically on self-promotion. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get obnoxious about it-- maybe one post a week relating to my book and why you should sell everything you own and buy thousands of copies. Between those weekly posts I’ll continue to talk about books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen or stories I’ve written people who’ve pissed me off or made me happy.
And if 2011 turns out HALF as good as 2010, well… bring it on.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Jedidiah Ayres Essential Noir

Now let's see, where were we? Oh yeah, the "essential noir" lists!

This time out I'm happy to have a terrific list from the very funny and very outspoken Jedidiah Ayres. Jed runs one of my favorite blogs, Hardboiled Wonderland, where he weighs in on crime fiction, film, popular culture, and whatever strikes him. You can find his stories in Thuglit, Plots With Guns, Crime Factory, Out of the Gutter, and well, just a bunch of places.

The above photo is NOT Jedidiah Ayres.

Jed says:
"In composing this list it became embarrassingly obvious how unqualified and under read I am to speak with any kind of authority on the matter of ‘best noirs of all time.’ All that I am qualified to do is offer an opinion based upon my subjective tastes and limited exposure to the literature we’re bestowing the ‘N’ word on. I tried not to use any too recent selections, though I can think of several that could make this list with a few more years under their belts, just because… well, damn, y’know? Handful from the last ten years in there, though. Sue me. Notable too that I didn’t include any short story collections here because then it could get really hairy for me. One more guideline: I’m tried to stick to titles I haven’t seen on the previous lists. Are some unavoidable? Probably, but here the fuck goes."

American Skin by Ken Bruen The dark lord’s darkest hour.

And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave The lesson that our post-Columbine, post Semptember Eleventh world just fucking refuses to learn is that our objects of scorn and abuse are likely to channel all that we heap on them into some serious fucking retribution. Euchrid Eucrow may be unlovely to begin with, but the horrors he’s witnessed and been subjected to by the people of Ukulore Valley will fuel a rage in him and a reckoning from him few will live to recount.

Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr. A three novel omnibus of Bernie Gunther stories. Gunther is an ex-SS officer turned private eye of the classic style in pre-war Berlin. The progression of the tarnished knight detective against the backdrop of the world literally going to hell is harrowing. The first two, March Violets and The Pale Criminal are pre-war and A German Requiem is post war in Vienna. By the time Bernie has seen the war and Berlin has been utterly destroyed, he is a hollowed out shell of the man he thought he was. Bernie’s small victories matter not at all in contrast to the great mad tide he has allowed to happen and the compromises he and everyone else who’s still around made just to survive. What do you know, a detective story can be noir.

Cutter and Bone by Newton Thornberg I’ve never read another book that I enjoyed so thoroughly, but had to take in such small portions. It was that heavy. I simply couldn’t bear to read it for long stretches. Shook me up. That’s all I’ll say.

The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell If the books of any author can be considered to be in conversation with the others, each a part of the greater whole complementing and contrasting and bringing into sharper focus the rest of the work, The Death of Sweet Mister raises the stakes for all of his Ozark tales. Ree Dolly’s quest to save her brothers from a life of blunt meanness - the driving force of Winter’s Bone. That book benefits from chronological progression.The stakes raised considerably if you’ve read Sweet Mister. Shug Akins is the sacrifice that lends additional weight to the rest of the work.

Dog Eat Dog by Eddie Bunker All the made up badassery in any of my stories becomes awfully transparent whenever I place it next to Bunker.

Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury I remember finishing this book that ends with the live broadcast manhunt for the hero and then turning on the television and watching O.J. Simpson’s white SUV speeding down the highway on every channel. Kinda freaked me out. Sorta stuck with me.

59 Degrees and Raining, the story of Perdita Durango a novella included in the book Sailor’s Holiday by Barry Gifford is as wild and hallucinatory a death trip as you’re ever likely to read. Its starts with prostitution, assassination and graft, quickly escalates to theft, kidnapping, human sacrifice and devil worship. When hard-bitten femme fatale Perdita Durango meets Romeo Dolorosa it’s instant, consuming lust, gravitation of badass to peer. Each feed off the other’s energy wreaking havoc throughout Louisiana, Texas California and Mexico. Thrill killers, thieves and blood lust lovers, this is give a fuck fiction at my favorite.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk Ever feel like you’re wasting your life? Like you’ve got more to offer the world than your shitty retail job? Think perhaps joining an anarchist army might provide some fulfillment? Chuck’s hilarious examination of all the dead ends available is just about perfect.

Gun With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem. Another detective story and this one even kitschy, are you kidding? No. As playful as any of the elements of this distopia hardboiled detective genre mash up may be, and there are plenty of laughs, the sharp ness of Lethem’s wit lets him slip that satire stiletto deep before you’ve even caught on. You’ll be distracted by the talking animals and the babyheads and gimmicky schtick all the way to the end, but you probably won’t sleep very well. It’s unsettling stuff.

The Hustler by Walter Tevis “You’re a loser, Eddie.” Nuff said.

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson Been covered, yeah?

The Mustache/The Adversary by Emmanuel Carrere Two books that I couldn’t decide between. The Mustache is a novella about a man being disconnected from reality. His increasingly frantic grasping for something solid to anchor himself to, and his absolute failure to do so, is truly frightening, (incidentally the author wrote and directed a film version of this one, but I thought it was a travesty – avoid it at least until you’ve read the book). The Adversary is a true crime account of a French med-school dropout who never told anyone that he had failed to become a doctor. He spun an elaborate deception that his wife, family, friends and neighbors were fooled by for years. When his rickety house of cards is ready to crumble, rather than come clean or own up to it all, he kills everyone he loves. Carrere interviewed the subject, Jean-Claude Romand, extensively and gets into his psyche so effectively, he robbed me of many a peaceful moment. Thank you.

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy Boiled down to its essence.

Power and the Glory by Graham Greene – is there such a thing as a redemptive noir? There is now, motherfucker. The asshole priest knows he’s doomed to die, but he’s got to decide how he’s going out and the lieutenant , a man of integrity, is doomed to hunt and slaughter (relatively) innocent men to maintain order in the land. They’re both doomed and both corrupted and compromised, but both are still in possession of some kind of sacred spark in their poorly worn souls.

Scalped by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guerra A graphic novel, and it’s not even over yet! How will the story wrap for Dashiell Badhorse and company? I don’t know, but I’ll venture… badly? Start at the start. End at the end. This is gonna be one for the ages.

Shella by Andrew Vachss Wow. Just, holy crap. Wow.

Twilight by William Gay If you’ve read any of his previous novels, you’ll recognize the elements at play in this one, but Twilight has a stripped down – straight forward plot that serves to propel you through the nightmare dreamscape and mission of young Tyler to protect his sister from a monster. The preservation of a woman’s virtue may seem like small stakes to you seasoned, hardboiled readers, but considering that the woman in question is already dead and her corpse is in danger of gruesome violation makes the whole thing so twisted it’s gotta be called noir.

The Walkaway by Scott Phillips The book that gave us Wayne Ogden, an AWOL American supply sergeant and pimp, black marketer and psychopath who returns clandestinely to Kansas from occupied Japan and turns Wichita inside out. The tangential timelines follow Wayne in the fifties and Gunther Fahnstiel in the eighties, a retired policeman and the titular walkaway from a nursing home suffering from alzheimers but determined to do… something. The two story lines converge and Gunther turns out to be a worthy foil for Ogden, but damn. Wayne, Wayne, Wayne. Wayne deserves another book or two. Oh wait, they’re coming.

White Jazz by James Ellroy Hardboiled. Pitiless. Racist. Abusive. Sexually obsessed with his own sister. Corrupt. Hero. Dave Klein is a piece of work my friend. How Ellroy puts you in Klein’s corner and his own pocket so easily is astounding. And the brute force of the prose – tender as a brick.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Best of Whatever at Day Labor

Normally, this would be the time of year I'd talk a little about some of my favorite books that I read this past year. But this time, Keith Rawson at Day Labor, the blog for Crime Factory, beat me to the punch. You'll find my list, and a ton of other great ones, here:

Crime Factory

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Coen Brothers and Noir Conventions

The much-anticipated film True Grit is coming out in a couple-few days, so this seemed like a good time to talk about the Coen Brothers. I love these guys, I really do. In their long career (careers?)of movie-making they've seldom taken a wrong step (let's pretend The Lady-Killers never happened, okay?)
The thing I really enjoy about them is how they play with genre conventions while staying true to them, in their own way. These are two men who clearly LOVE story, and understand it. And a surprising number of their films have very distinct noir flavors.
Here's a few.

Blood Simple
Jealous husband hires a P.I. to murder his cheating wife; everything turns to shit almost immediately in the Coen Bros first outing. Classic noir elements with the usual Coen flair.

Miller’s Crossing
Great Depression-era gangster saga, with Gabriel Byrne as a conflicted Irish hitman, Albert Finney as his boss, and Marcia Gay Harden as the woman they both love. Gang war erupts amidst the personal drama. Also starring the terrific John Turturro.

Barton Fink
The follow-up to Miller’s Crossing is an uncomfortable black comedy with Turturro as a playwright trying to survive the Hollywood system and a bad case of writer’s block. Things get weirder when his hotel room neighbor, John Goodman, turns out to be a sadistic serial killer who likes to chop off his victim’s heads. Under-rated movie.

The Big Lebowski
Jeff Bridges is unforgettable in what has rightfully become a cult classic movie as Lebowski, otherwise known as The Dude. When he’s mistaken for a different (much richer) Lebowski, The Dude finds himself wrapped up in a complex case that would make Philip Marlowe proud. The movie is like a Raymond Chandler story, except with an aging stoner in the lead. Also starring a fantastic John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, and John Turturro in a small but memorable role. Comedy Noir.

A classically-structured noir about a car salesman (William Macy) who pays some hoods to kill his wife, only to have the scheme backfire on him in the most horrible way. This would've been a fairly typical story, except for the setting (ice-bound Midwest), the hero (pregnant female cop) and the stunningly black humor.

The Man Who Wasn’t There
Billy Bob Thornton is Ed Crane, a barber in Santa Rosa, 1949, who stumbles across a chance to make a change in his life. But to do it, he’ll have to blackmail his wife’s boss. Blackmail leads to murder, and murder leads to lies, and it isn’t long before the noose begins to tighten around Crane’s neck.
Beautifully shot in black and white, this is a stark, thoughtful existential noir in the classic mode.

Burn After Reading
Another comedy noir, although the comedy is distinctly black. It comes very close to being slapstick as circumstances veer wildly out of control for everyone involved. Great performances by George Clooney, John Malkovitch, and believe it or not Brad Pitt (the guy steals the movie).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Philosophy and Fiction

"You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life."- Albert Camus

I’ve been enjoying the most remarkable sense of well-being lately, due in large part, I think to reading philosophy.
That’s been my go-to place for several years now whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed by existence and the world. It really works for me. I started becoming interested in philosophy by a fairly pedestrian avenue—like many other people, I found myself plagued by the big questions: what does this even mean? Why am I here? What the fuck is the fucking point?
It began with a rejection of religion and faith in general. Some people, I suppose, are pre-disposed to be believers in the supernatural, and some people are not. I couldn’t accept the easy answer that wasn’t an answer. I don’t mean that as a judgment against the faithful, but it just felt like a cop-out to me.
But you know, figuring out what WASN’T the answer also was not the answer.
My reading of popular books on atheism (Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, etc) was all very intellectually stimulating but wasn’t bringing me any closer to what I felt I needed to know. I read Bertrand Russell’s book Why I Am Not a Christian, and started getting the sense that I was closing in on it. That led to his The Problems of Philosophy (which is a great introduction to 20th century thought, if you want to know). After that, I found myself drawn to the great existential thinkers, which sort of coincided with my re-reading of Crime & Punishment, The Trial, and The Stranger (sometimes fiction is far more effective in conveying philosophical ideas than essays are).
By this time, my mind was buzzing and I found that reading this sort of stuff was really exciting; the stimulation was invigorating and I couldn’t get enough. The existentialist idea—that existence is completely without meaning and that life was an exercise in absurdity—felt liberating and life-affirming. The end result was that I finally and at long last realized that the ANSWER didn’t exist and it didn’t NEED to. The questions themselves, and the ideas generated by them, were what really sent endorphins racing through my skull and made me wild-eyed with the panorama of new possibilities opening up. Possibilities that had nothing to do with conventional wisdom or societal norms.
Answers weren’t required, I realized. Only questions. Since there is no inherent meaning to it all, I create my OWN. My own is, of course, story-telling.
I just read The Myth of Sisyphus, by Albert Camus, and in the book there’s a remarkable section on how existential philosophy applies to the art/craft of fiction writing. He refers mostly to our man Dostoevsky in this section, which is only right. Camus’ main point, without getting too bogged down in the details, is that even the act of creation is in itself absurd, and so can’t be a rebellion against the absurd. It can only be a confirmation of it, acquiescence. This doesn’t mean that we just roll over and surrender ourselves to a meaningless universe—it means that we KNOW. And it is good to know. Knowing is a sort of victory. Like Sisyphus, rolling the stone up the hill over and over and over again, we realize that the labor is our own, and our unwillingness to break in the face of it is our triumph.
This is why writing and art matter. We work in the face of the absurd, and… “All is well”.
My work, while paltry and (let’s face it) insignificant compared to Camus or Dostoevsky or Kafka, is my own little acquiescence. It’s my own little acknowledgement of meaninglessness. And because of that, it’s the only thing that matters.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Three Best Villains

A hero is only as interesting as his villain, they say. But sometimes the villain is so interesting that we forget the hero entirely. Have you ever read a book or seen a movie where you really can’t wait for them to get back to the villain, because he’s just THAT much more interesting?
Here are my three favorite villains, some of the absolute, scene-stealing, best villains ever:

Tommy Udo, played by Richard Widmark in the movie “Kiss of Death”. Widmark brought a creepy, unstable dimension to the role of Udo, creating a character so widely unpredictable and vicious that you had no idea what the hell kind of crazy shit he was going to do next. The creepy laugh, the dead-eye stare, the sneer of a smile that didn’t touch any other part of his face… it’s easy to forget Victor Mature was even IN that movie. “Ya dirty squit…”

Anton Chigurh, from the book and the movie “No Country for Old Men”. Chigurh moved through the story like a bad dream, implacable and as inevitable as Satan himself. You just KNEW that the erstwhile hero didn’t stand a chance once their paths crossed. Chigurh seemed to have attained some bizarre villainous zen-state, where even attempting to fit in with the rest of the world was unnecessary-- all that was required was killing these pesky creatures that stood in his way. Humans seemed downright irrelevant to him. Carson: “You’re not outside of death.” Chigurh: “It doesn’t mean to me what it does to you.”

The Joker, portrayed by Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight“. The Joker in all his incarnations has always been a great villain, but Ledger brought something truly uneasy and disconcerting to the role-- the gleeful embrace of chaos and the complete disregard for consequences. He was something a rational human being could never understand-- a creature without reason or obvious motivation, existing for no other reason than to kill and destroy. A sort of murderous anarchist. All of Batman’s reasoning and logic meant nothing in the face of this chuckling, slouching monument to discord. “Look at me. Do I look like I have a plan??”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Off the Rails

Been at loose ends with my writing lately. You know what I mean? Lots of different ideas floating around, and not sure which direction to go. The new novel sort of went off the rails somewhere, and I’ve been busy trying to figure out how to get the engine back on the tracks. Ideas for shorter works keep cluttering up my thought processes as well, tempting me to leave the novel alone for awhile and placate the short story muse.
This is what happens when you actually have TIME to write, for a change-- you get scattered.
There’s also that persistent question of what you really wanna SAY this time out. I mean, the story itself is one thing, but what’s it really ABOUT, on a deeper level? In The Bastard Hand, I exorcised a lot of demons regarding how I feel about faith and religion, etc… in my second novel, City of Heretics, I addressed how I felt about getting old, feeling that weird disconnect from humanity, feeling the world had somehow moved on when I wasn’t paying attention. So what’s the new one about? I have no idea, yet.
I suspect it’ll come to me, while I’m writing it.
For someone who is half in love with chaos, I find I really need a plan, a regiment, to actually get anything done. And the circumstances of my day job afford me a good opportunity-- every year, I’m laid off for a period of about three or four months. So here’s my new plan:
During those months off the day job, I concentrate on a novel. Focus. Get it done, at least the first draft, anyway. And the months in which I’m working the day job, write short stories (if the idea is fully formed, I can pop off a short story in one-to-three sittings).
So that’s the plan. Stop being so damn scattered and stick to it.
Okay, I feel better now.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

About Charles Willeford

A really terrific site about Willeford, perhaps the most subversive of all writers of paperback originals. Willeford is, in my opinion, one of the most significant three or four writers in the genre.

Charles Willeford

Pete Risley's Essential Noir

Just recently had the honor of making the acquaintance of Pete Risley, the author of RABID CHILD, one of the most talked about debut novels of 2010, published by New Pulp Press. You wonder what books inspired his twisted mind? Here ya go...

Pete says:
"I always enjoy reading lists like this, but I think they tend to get most interesting once the list-makers get past the great ‘canonical’ works that almost everyone in the category has been influenced by, and point out their own less-predictable favorites. Therefore, I'll cheat a little bit and skip Hammett, Chandler, etc, so I can maybe provide an entire list of interesting picks – though I guess some I’ve settled on are pretty standard choices after all. Others, though, are not."

1. Paul Cain (George Sims), FAST ONE, 1934. Gambling, gangsters and a ‘dipso’ moll in Los Angeles. Episodic and written in a clipped, fast-paced style Chandler called “ultra-hardboiled.”
2. James M. Cain, SERENADE, 1937. Down-and-out American tough-guy opera singer in Mexico gets his groove back when he meets hard but sweet Indian-Latina trollop, but a star-crossed fate awaits them. Driven by a dubious concept of homosexual attraction and its effect on the male singing voice.
3. John B. Sanford, THE OLD MAN’S PLACE, 1935. Yankee farmer’s son returns home from the Great War with two criminal companions, all of them set to get stupid-drunk, trash the place and raise hell just for the hell of it. The entrance of a na├»ve girl onto the scene brings more trouble still. A harsh, nihilistic work by a writer just then about to turn radical left. Underrated. Reprinted as a ‘50’s paperback with new title THE HARD GUYS.
4. Horace McCoy, KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE, 1948. From prison break to gangster crime spree, a vicious, sexually-twisted sociopath leaves scorched earth behind. Standard-setter for much noir fiction that followed.
5. Mickey Spillane, ONE LONELY NIGHT, 1951. With Cold War paranoia still reaching for its height, Mike Hammer takes on the international Communist conspiracy. Culminates in a scene of spiced-up bloody carnage that's as absurd as it is effective. Then comes the brutal surprise ending that literally out-McCarthys Joe McCarthy.
6. Chandler Brossard, WHO WALK IN DARKNESS, 1952. Dark intrigue among literary hipsters in Beat era Greenwich Village. Roman a clef, that is, based on real people, including Anatole Broyard and William Gaddis.
7. John Clellon Holmes, GO, 1952. Young Allen Ginsberg as pathetic noirish mental case among NYC hipsters. Also has characters based on Kerouac, Neal Cassady, others from the circle.
8. William S. Burroughs, QUEER, written c. 1953, published 1985. Written immediately after his first novel JUNKIE. Starkly depicts self-revulsion and despair that led 'William Lee' to junk in the first place. A scene in which Lee creeps out acquaintances in a bar by doing a twisted Burroughsian 'routine,' which he continues composing in his head after they split and leave him in solitude, is key to the author's sensibility.
9. Jim Thompson SAVAGE NIGHT, 1953. A bizarre hit man hits it off with a still-stranger girl. Along with the slighter work A HELL OF A WOMAN, this novel displays Thompson's urge to represent the increasing derangement of his protagonists by exploding the narrative itself.
10. Elliot Chaze, BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL, 1953. Irresistible attraction between tough, frustrated WWII vet and dangerous doll leads to wild road-tripping crime spree.
11. Harriet Daimler, DARLING, 1956. Arguably noir porn novel from Olympia Press, Paris. Young female artist in NYC seeks sexual fulfillment and/or revenge after being viciously raped. Very dirty.
12. Peter Rabe, KILL THE BOSS GOODBYE, 1956. Crime boss in fragile mental state cuts short his rest cure to thwart a takeover attempt. A cold and sharp study of personal disintegration under pressure.
13. Fletcher Flora, PARK AVENUE TRAMP, 1958. Beautiful, booze-addled trophy wife on the prowl for love/sex seduces a lonely, doomed lounge pianist. A very dark and moving love-but-not-love story.
14. John McPartland, THE KINGDOM OF JOHNNY COOL. 1959. Aspiring, very tough young Italian mobster in US on hit mission gets tripped up when smitten with unlikely girl. Compare with far sleazier THE PEDDLER by Richard Prather, as well as sleazier and crazier SAVAGE NIGHT by Thompson.
15. Vin Packer, THE DAMNATION OF ADAM BLESSING,1961. Variant on Ripleyesque user/trickster, whose weaknesses bring about a bizarre, unexpected meltdown.
16. Charles Perry, PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN DROWNING, 1962. Grim story of Oedipal-complexed juvenile delinquent in Brooklyn drawn into gangster life, even as his psyche is crumbling. Compare with KILL THE BOSS GOODBYE.
17. Malcolm Braly, SHAKE HIM TILL HE RATTLES, 1963. Jazz musicians, shabby hipsters, cons and a sadistic cop in the North Beach district of San Francisco.
18. Schneck, Stephen. THE NIGHTCLERK. 1965. Effete, grossly fat clerk in hot-sheet hotel obsesses over the fantasy-fulfilling antics of his nymphomaniac hooker wife. Floridly-written black humor novel.
19. Curt Clark (Donald E. Westlake), ANARCHAOS, 1967. Science Fiction novel with noir atmosphere, set on lawless planet of gangsters.
20. Rudolph Wurlitzer, NOG, 1969. Oddly convincing tale of the deeply stoned journeyings of a young man who might once have had a truck and a rubber octopus, and who meets a girl, and then some other people. Maintains a noirish sense of detached dread, threatening to go full-tilt hallucinatory at any time, if indeed it hasn’t already.
21 (one more for the road). Jim Nisbet, DEATH PUPPET, 1989. Bored waitress in a small town has tryst with strangely enticing traveling salesman. Turns out she shouldn’t have…

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Richard Widmark Noir

You can't get much more noir as an actor than Richard Widmark. Here's some of his best:

Kiss of Death
1947-Henry Hathaway
One of the top five or ten greatest noirs ever made.
Victor Mature is an ex-con who turned state’s evidence so he can have a life with new wife Ann Gray. Brian Donlevy is the cop who helps him. And Richard Widmark… well, Widmark (in his first major role) is the psychotic Tommy Udo, who learns of Mature’s betrayal and sets his sites on him.
Widmark’s portrayal of Udo set a new standard for movie baddies. He’s scary as hell. Kiss of Death is a masterpiece.

Street with No Name
Widmark again, in his follow-up to Kiss of Death, again playing the scary-as-hell psycho. Nobody could do it quite as well.
An FBI agent goes undercover to nab a murderer and joins the gang of neurotic criminal Widmark, who is “building an organization along scientific lines”.

Night & the City
1950-Jules Dassin
Essential noir, with a first-rate cast, shot on location in London. The brilliant Widmark is an ambitious but none-too-bright hustler who finds himself running for his life when his plans to swindle a nightclub owner go awry. Also starring the gorgeous Gene Tierney, and Herbert Lom.

Pickup on South Street
1953-Sam Fuller
Doesn’t get much better than this one. Widmark is a master pickpocket who finds himself in possession of some microfilm that some Commie secret agents will stop at nothing to get back.

Panic in the Streets
1950-Elia Kazan
Terrific movie. Widmark takes a turn as a good guy for a change, playing a doctor desperately trying to track down a murderous criminal who’s been unknowingly infected with a deadly disease. The criminal must be stopped before he spreads the plague throughout the entire city of New Orleans.
Also starring Jack Palance and Barbara Bel Geddes.