Monday, April 17, 2017

The Outrage and the Nature of Truth

 
One of Paul Newman's least known and seldom shown films is The Outrage (1964). The film explores the elusive nature of truth as three conflicting versions of the same crime are presented to a frontier judge before a burned out courthouse. The film is an adaptation of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950).


Newman plays the unlikely role of Juan Carrasco, a Mexican outlaw accused of raping a Southern belle and killing her aristocratic husband. The beguiling Claire Bloom plays the violated woman, and Laurence Harvey plays her Southern gentleman. Despite the lurid subject matter, Newman, Bloom, and Harvey give tongue and cheek performances in episodic flashbacks which entertain in unexpected ways.

Rounding out the cast is Edward G. Robinson as a cynical, larcenous gambler. His performance may be one of his best as he shines throughout the film. William Shatner plays a frontier preacher who has lost his faith after he hears the conflicting trial testimony. His performance is subdued and pensive making Robinson's portrayal of the sleazy conman all the more compelling. Howard Da Silva plays a down-on-his-luck prospector undergoing a moral crisis. He has withheld important evidence by not testifying at the trial.

The three men are waiting overnight in a rundown train depot for the next train out of town. A driving rainstorm sets the somber tone for the movie. As the three men discuss the Carrasco case, director Martin Ritt intersperses flashbacks depicting the various points-of-view which have as much to do with the truth as the basic facts of the case.

The Outrage is a provocative and thought-provoking movie filmed in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson, Arizona. Every Paul Newman fan should see this film at least once.

Trailer for The Outrage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt9xrEjQZPg

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Terror In Ypsilanti Audiobook Available


An audiobook version of Terror In Ypsilanti was released on March 31, 2017, by Tantor Media. The reading length is 11 hours and 52 minutes.

Listen to a free 5 minute sample from chapter one. I'm quite pleased with the narration by professional voice artist Chris Ciulla (Shula). Now available for purchase.

http://www.audible.com/pd/Nonfiction/Terror-in-Ypsilanti-Audiobook/B06XSKGMMJ/ref=a_search_c4_2_8_srTtl?qid=1491099172&sr=2-8

Friday, March 31, 2017

Terror in Ypsilanti Film Prospect

Since the publication of Terror In Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked in August 2016, my book has been well-received by readers. Most of my original goals for writing it have been met. But there is one prospect I want to pursue--bringing the book to the screen.

Recently, I contracted with Voyage Media--a Los Angeles-based film development company specializing in turning indie books into screen projects. Their team created a Producer's Action Plan for Terror In Ypsilanti which includes an accurate abstract of the book, a demographic assessment, a market analysis, and a producer's recommendations for adaptation.

The next step is developing a screenplay. On the strength of Voyage Media's study, they presented me with two options--a two-hour stand-alone movie or a limited cable series. The movie option is viable, but due to the length and breadth of the source material, only a portion of the story could be told to create a "who-dunnit" mystery movie.

Tap on link at end of this post.
In 2013, the Investigation Discovery channel did a scripted docu-drama about John Norman Collins on their Crimes to Remember program entitled "A New Kind of Monster." By focusing only on one of the seven murders, the bulk of the story was never developed. As producer Rebecca Morton told me, there is only so much story that can be told in a forty-three minute episode. As amazing as it would be to see Terror in Ypsilanti on the big screen in a two-hour movie, telling only a slice of the story does not appeal to me. That has already been done.

Option two was preparing a pilot script for a limited cable series like Netflix's "Making a Murder" or HBO's "The Jinx: The Life and Death of Robert Durst." A six episode mini-series (one season) would allow a more complex look into the crimes of John Norman Collins and give a deeper sense of time and place to properly ground the story.

This option makes more sense from the promotional aspect too. Cable television consumes large quantities of material and provides many outlets for true crime material. The prospects for success are greatly increased. Target networks would include Investigation Discovery, Oxygen, HBO, Showtime, BBC, CNN, Netflix, and Amazon.

Because John Norman Collins is not a nationally known serial killer, a one-and-done movie does not provide time to grow an audience the way series television can. It seems clear to me that the small screen option is a better fit for Terror in Ypsilanti.

Voyage Media's development team noted that most true crime writers are not from the areas they write about. They feel I am uniquely qualified to tell this story. As a member of the Ypsilanti community at the time of these crimes, I personally know many of the first-hand participants depicted in my book. This fresh storytelling perspective may attract the attention of producers.

While a screenplay for a limited series pilot is being written, my Producer's Action Plan is currently entered in Voyage Media's database where production companies search for new material. Should a producer or acquisitions editor show an interest, I will be contacted directly. The process is fraught with failure at every turn, but at the very least, I will have a screenplay to use as a promotional tool rather than a vague idea to attract interest in the project. Even without a screenplay treatment, one media company is showing an interest.

http://fornology.blogspot.com/2015/10/a-crime-to-remember-john-norman-collins.html 
 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Terror in Ypsilanti Great Expectations

Wheatmark Publishing booth--Tucson Festival of Books March 2017
Since its release last August, Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked has done well. My publisher Sam Henrie at Wheatmark, Inc. recently told me most self-published books sell fewer than 50 copies. Selling 200 copies is considered a success. In eight months, TERROR has sold over 2,000 copies becoming Wheatmark's current top seller.

That distinction entitles me to membership in Wheatmark's Great Expectations Program. In addition to recognition in their publishing newsletter, I was awarded $2,000 in goods and/or services. This was totally unexpected and most appreciated. I look forward to working with Wheatmark on future projects.

To celebrate this personal milestone, I have reduced the price of my ebooks from $9.95 to a more competitive $6.95. Both Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked and Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel are available on Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Apple i-book digital editions.

Either book makes a good vacation or airplane read. I would like to encourage my American and International Fornology readers to order my titles postage-free using the convenient ebook option. No physical book to wait for in the mail. Tap the book image in the right sidebar for the Amazon/Kindle site.

Soon, there will be a digital option for book listeners. In June 2017, Tantor Media will release an audiobook of Terror in Ypsilanti. They chose professional reader Chris Ciulla (www.chrisciulla.com) to narrate the book. I've listened to some of his previous work, and I'm confident he will do a fine job.

Tantor Media is an Australian company that produces, promotes, and distributes digital audiobooks to English-speaking countries worldwide. In addition to the consumer market, Tantor specializes in libraries and audiobooks for the blind. I look forward to doing business with them.

Bouyed by Terror in Ypsilanti's success, I am looking ahead to a new challenge--bringing the book to the screen. More on that in my next post.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rosie the Riveter - Happy Women's History Month, Ladies




In honor of all the Rosies who stepped up to fill the work shoes of the men in uniform. America would never be the same nor would these women.


I love this link. I hope you do also: 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GarCzR_6Ng&feature=em-share_video_user

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Detroit's Beloved Weatherman Sonny Eliot

Sonny Eliot and friend.
Weatherman Sonny Eliot was well-known to generations of Detroiters. He began his career in 1947 at the very beginning of television broadcasting in Detroit and spent thirty-five years at WWJ (now WDIV), which included seventeen years hosting "At the Zoo." For many years, he was the Master of Ceremonies for Detroit's J.L. Hudson's Thankgiving Day Parade. In 2010, Eliot retired from broadcasting.

Sonny Eliot was a cultural icon for Baby Boomers and their parents. Once called the Ernie Harwell (Detroit Tiger sportscaster) of weather, Eliot had an unprecented 50% share of Detroit's television market during his weather segment. Perhaps he is best described as a borscht-belt comic weatherman and best known for his hybrid blending of weather conditions like "snog" for snow/fog, "cloggy" for cloudy/foggy, and "droudy" for dreary/cloudy. In addition to his television career, he was the author of four children's books. Eliot had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to make people laugh.

Marvin Schlossberg was born on Hastings Street December 5, 1920. He was the youngest child of Latvian Jewish parents. His mother nicknamed him "Sonny." He credits his mother for his sense of humor. His parents owned and ran a hardware store on Detroit's East Side. As he grew up, Sonny developed a passion for flying.


B-24 Liberator bomber
"During World War II, he was a B-24 bomber pilot who was shot down over Germany. Flak tore into his plane in February of 1944. He held the bomber as steady as he could while his crew parachuted before he jumped. Sonny was apprehended by a German farmer armed with a pitchfork and spent eighteen months in Stalagluft I until the end of the war. The POW camp was located near Barth, Germany. It was liberated the night of April 30, 1945, by Russian troops. The American prisoners were soon evacuated by American aircraft in "Operation Revival" and returned home.

Mel Butsicaris, son of Johnny Butsicaris and nephew of Jimmy Butsicaris, the Lindell AC bar owners, gave me permission to share his Facebook post on the Sonny Eliot he knew.

"Sonny was an incredible man and many stories have been told and written about his life. He lived, worked, and played in Detroit, so people felt like they knew him because he would take the time to acknowledge them. Uncle Sonny is what I called him. He was a unique man and a joy to be around: funny, smart, adventurous, generous, and fun-loving. He fit in with anybody he was with.

"People would see Uncle Sonny hanging out at the Lindell AC (Athletic Club) sports bar during the week. My dad even gave him an office on the second floor of our building. But on the weekends he focused on his two loves--his wife Annette and flying with my dad in an airplane they co-owned. Flying was their shared addiction.

"Uncle Sonny made everyone feel like a friend, so people naturally felt like they knew him. I have lost track of how many times people have come up to me and say they saw Sonny Eliot drunk at the Lindell feeling no pain, or Sonny was so funny after he had a few drinks. Newsflash! Sonny Eliot did not drink alcohol.

"To all the people that bought Uncle Sonny a drink in the Lindell, I am sorry for overcharging you, but you insisted I make him a drink. I would give him his usual glass of soda water with a splash of ginger ale for some color and a lemon twist. I would put my finger over the pour spout so it only looked like he was getting whiskey. His drinking was an act, but his wit, fun-loving personality, and his genuine kindness were real."


Marvin (Sonny Eliot) Schlossberg died peacefully among family and friends in his Farmington Hills home on November 16, 2012, at the age of ninty-one. Sonny Eliot led a remarkable life touching the lives of millions of Detroiters and leaving us better for the experience.

WWJ video tribute to Sonny Eliot--https://youtu.be/Y0iVuyfDUjM

Sonny Eliot news story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZD-gKG5-g8

Monday, March 6, 2017

Yellow Journalism, Truth Decay, and the Cult of Ignorance

Joseph Pulitzer II
Yellow journalism was a term coined during the newspaper circulation wars of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer II at the end of the nineteenth century. Rather than relying on mere facts, their newspaper articles featured sensationalism, crude exaggeration, scandal-mongering, and mud-slinging.

William Randolph Hearst
Competition between Hurst's New York Journal and Pulitzer's New York World to sell newspapers lead to the saber-rattling which helped ignite the Spanish-American War and guide Theodore Roosevelt into the White House on a "bully pulpit."

In today's Internet world, yellow journalism is served up as click-bait--otherwise known as the quest for eyeballs and dollars. The politics of division play out daily on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Headlines of these political posts are written for their shock value with reactionary wording and a sense of urgency to attract and hold their target audience.

Sensationalism, scandal-mongering, innuendo, biased opinions, malicious rumors, and misinformation masquerading as truth are the tools of the yellow journalist's trade. Once their tightly controlled alternative facts become dogma, their followers adopt these beliefs as elemental certitudes immune to facts. 



Manufactured news stories by hyper-partisan propaganda machines systematically cater to powerful political and social movements. These stories display a strong ideological and journalistic bias to suppress or distort the news with a reckless disregard for the facts. Fake news on both sides of the political spectrum tries to manipulate public opinion. Truth is the first casualty, then goes the public's faith in its free press and media outlets. Distrust of factual news results in truth decay.

"Don't confuse me with the facts" has become an anthem for too many people in America. When journalistic ethics and professionalism are cast aside, the public is the ultimate loser. The average person does not know who or what to believe any longer and cynicism sets in.

I came across a Psychology Today article from 2014 that is a snapshot of America from our recent past. It has a prophetic quality in light of this nation's recent change of stewardship. "The Cult of Ignorance... Anti-Intellectualism and the Dumbing Down of America" https://sott.net/en313177