(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘thrillers

“Poetry is emotion put into measure”*…



Concrete poem


From Petrarchian through Cinquain to Sestina, Adam Bertocci offers 22 variations on Shakespeare’s most famous poem: “Alternate Forms for Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.”

* Thomas Hardy


As we match content to form, we might send craftily-constructed birthday greetings to Ross Thomas; he was born on this date in 1928.  A thriller writer considered by many to be America’s answer to Len Deighton or John Le Carre– only funnier– he wrote The Cold War Swap, his first novel, in six weeks– and won the 1967 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.  He went on to write 19 other novels under his own name and 5 as “Oliver Bleeck.”  His 1984 novel, Briarpatch, won the Edgar for Best Novel.  In 2002, he was awarded the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award— with Ed McBain, one of only two posthumous recipients.

ross thomas source


Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 19, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The lunatics have taken over the asylum”*…

What if front pages were selected by newspapers’ readers instead of their editors?  At NewsWhip, we’re always interested in the news stories people are choosing to share – and how those stories differ from the normal news stories editors put on the front pages of big newspapers. So we ran a little experiment.

On Wednesday morning, we gathered the front pages of leading newspapers in several countries. Then we used Spike to check the most shared stories from each one.

A little work at our end, and we used those most shared stories to make new “people powered” front pages for each newspaper – giving the most shared story the most prominence, the second most shared the second most prominence, etc.

We replaced headlines and pictures, though did not get into replacing story text and bylines. The results are pretty neat – maybe even thought provoking.

For each paper we have the original front page on the left, and the “people powered” one on the right. Scroll through and take a look at the contrast.

See a larger version of the comparison above, plus similar side-by-sides of The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The New York Post, and many more at “Here’s what happens when the readers choose the front page story.”

* Richard Rowland, the head of Metro Pictures, on learning that Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffiths had formed United Artists (1919)


As we practice preference, we might spare a thought for Robert Ludlum; he dies on this date in 2001.  Ludlum used the lessons he learned asa theatrical actor and producer to write 27 novels, all thrillers, that have sold, estimates suggest, between 300-500 million copies in 33 languages around the world.  Seven of his works have been made into movies or mini-series (e.g., The Osterman Weekend and the Bourne Trilogy). Indeed, his franchise was so strong at his death that his estate has been able to continue the flow of novels, contracting other thriller writers to compose under the Robert LudlumTM  banner.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 12, 2014 at 1:01 am

Equality for all!…


This speculative map imagines a world divided into 665 territories of approximately equal population (10-11 million people each). The logic of the map does not entirely discount existing ethnic or national boundaries, but neither is it beholden to them. The particular political rationale behind these divisions is not addressed – whether these are independent nation-states or provinces of a world government is left to the imagination of the viewer. The map is rather meant to provide a visual representative of the radically unequal distribution of the world’s population. For example, one New York City and Long Island = half of Karachi = one Russian Far East = one of every Pacific Island. What does this make you think about the current distribution of the world’s resources, the movement of populations and the arbitrariness of territorial divisions?

Explore this “geography thought experiment” at World of Equal Districts.


As we ponder proximity, we might send hard-boiled birthday greetings to James Myers “Jim” Thompson; he was born on this date in 1906.  Arguably the finest of all pulp-crime writers, Thompson began his career as a “traditional” author, publishing his first two novels, Now and on Earth and Heed the Thunder as hardbacks.  After these books failed to find wide audiences, Thompson found his voice in crime fiction, grinding out hellish tales for paperback mills such as Lion Books and Gold Medal.  While he was quite prolific– Thompson once produced 12 books in 2 years– his crime fiction wasn’t paying the bills; so he turned to screenwriting, working with Stanley Kubrick on The Killing and Paths of Glory, to writing for TV series (Mackenzie’s RaidersCain’s Hundred, and Convoy), and to penning novelizations (e.g., Ironside).

But through it all, Thompson wrote thrillers– noir nuggets that included The Killer Inside MeSavage NightA Hell of a Woman, and Pop. 1280.  Thompson was convinced that recognition would come to him only after his death; and while two of his novels (The Killer Inside Me and The Getaway) were made into films during his lifetime, he was, sadly, largely right.  Since his death in 1977, both those films have been remade (The Getaway, twice, if one counts the first half of the Rodriguez/Tarantino mash-up From Dusk ’til Dawn), and several others adapted:  The Grifters (nominated for four Oscars), After Dark, My Sweet, and This World, Then the Fireworks, among others.  More to the point, Thompson’s writing has increasingly been appreciated for the marvel that it is.

The guy was over the top. The guy was absolutely over the top. Big Jim didn’t know the meaning of the word stop. There are three brave lets inherent in the forgoing: he let himself see everything, he let himself write it down, then he let himself publish it.

– Stephen King

If Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett & Cornell Woolrich could have joined together in some ungodly union & produced a literary offspring, Jim Thompson would be it.

Washington Post



Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 27, 2013 at 1:01 am

On the other hand…

“Trim”: adding or taking away

Here’s an ambiguous sentence for you: “Because of the agency’s oversight, the corporation’s behavior was sanctioned.” Does that mean, ‘Because the agency oversaw the company’s behavior, they imposed a penalty for some transgression’ or does it mean, ‘Because the agency was inattentive, they overlooked the misbehavior and gave it their approval by default’? We’ve stumbled into the looking-glass world of “contronyms”—words that are their own antonyms.

1. Sanction (via French, from Latin sanctio(n-), from sancire ‘ratify,’) can mean ‘give official permission or approval for (an action)’ or conversely, ‘impose a penalty on.’

Find a baker’s dozen other words that are their own opposites at Mental Floss.


As we acquiesce to ambiguity, we might send litigious birthday greetings to Scott Frederick Turow; he was born on this date in 1949.  A practicing lawyer whose first published work was a law school memoir (One L), Turow pioneered the legal thriller with his 1987 novel Presumed Innocent (as close readers of the book will know, perhaps the best title ever).  He has gone on to write eight more novels, edit two fiction collections, and publish another non-fiction work, which have together been translated into over 20 languages, sold over 25 million copies, and in many cases, been made into movies.  Turow has argued cases that have won the release of inmates serving time for crimes they did not commit, has served on Federal Judicial appointment committees, and has served as President of The Authors Guild.  If he has a fault, it is that by demonstrating the marketability of legal thrillers, he opened the way for John Grisham.

(Turow’s day job pays well enough to keep him comfortable; but in his capacity as head of The Authors Guild, he worries about the future of  American authors.  Other observers of the literary scene disagree.  In any case, as Dave Pell notes, “for better or worse, the lack of money being paid to some incredibly well-reviewed authors has led some of them to move over to writing TV scripts. This is the golden age of television for a reason.”)


Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 12, 2013 at 1:01 am

Lucha Libre!…

Mike Powell and Juergen Horn are living a peripatetic dream…

We’re lucky enough to have jobs that don’t require a steady address and since we both love traveling, we’ve decided to see the world… slowly. Always being tourists would get lame, but eternal newcomers? We can live with that. So, our plan is to move to an interesting new city, once every three months. About 91 days.

They are currently in La Paz, and are documenting their stay– from the Valley of the Moon to the inmate-run prison, San Pedro—  on their blog, for91days.com.  The highlight of the visit (at least for your correspondent) is their visit to the the local wrestling palace…

We recently attended the famous Lucha Libre at a sports facility in El Alto. Bolivians are wild for wrestling; posters of famous American wrestlers are everywhere, and you can’t go a block in La Paz without seeing seeing it on a curbside television set. Bolivia doesn’t have a professional league on the same level as the USA’s WWE, but El Alto’s Sunday afternoon Lucha Libre makes a solid substitute….

Rayo Azteco, Hombre Lobo, Mr. Atlas and Commando fought and provided plenty of fun, but the show really got going once the cholitas* were introduced. Alicia Flores was the first to enter, dressed in traditional garb, dancing around the ring to the delight of the fans. Her opponent was a guy, her assistant was a midget woman and, once the fight got going, none of them held back. Face-slapping, ball-grabbing, midget-stomping, high-flying action. It was awesome. At one point, after throwing the guy against the ropes, Alicia lifted her skirt in his face, knocking him to the canvas in shock.

The evening’s highlight was the Cholita vs. Cholita main event: Jenifer Two-Face against La Loca. No one has ever so completely owned her nickname as La Loca. This woman was crazy. As soon as the fight started, it got out of control. La Loca threw Jenifer over the barriers, into the foreigners section. Then she hopped over herself, grabbing coke bottles and spraying them over the crowd, howling like a beast. She kept at it, throwing chairs into the crowd and smashing Jenifer’s face into the bleachers just a meter away from us. Jenifer was a game fighter and brought the match back into the ring, but La Loca was just too loca. Soon enough, foreign objects had entered the melee, and the (fake) blood began to fly. With a little help from the evil ref, La Loca eventually pinned her opponent and exited the arena to the boos, whistles and shocked applause of the crowd.

* “Cholita” was coined by colonialist Spaniards as a denigration of the Andean population– in this feminine form, Andean women– but has since been adopted by the very people it was meant to injure.


As we practice our pins, we might recall that it was on this date in 1988 that Die Hard premiered.  Directed by John McTiernan with the precision of a Hong Kong action film, Die Hard was a huge hit; building on lead Bruce Willis’ wise-cracking TV (Moonlighting) persona, and on the precedent of Mel Gibson’s half of the “buddy duo” in the prior year’s hit, Lethal Weapon, it cemented the place of the funny, flawed hero in Hollywood action pictures.  Die Hard introduced American audiences to Alan Rickman… and, of course, made an A-List star of Bruce Willis.



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