Category Archives: Pulp Heroes

HAMMETT (1982)

HammettHAMMETT (1982) – Directed by Wim Wenders and produced by Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios, Hammett is a criminally neglected valentine to Hard-Boiled Detective Stories and Film Noir. The flick is based on the novel by Joe Gores. 

The stories about the behind the scenes chaos and conflicts surrounding the production of this movie are legion. Pre-production work began in 1975 and by the time it was released in 1982 multiple cast and story changes had taken place and Coppola himself re-shot more than a third of the film.

In the way that Time After Time presented a whimsical “what if” adventure featuring H.G. Wells having a real time machine, Hammett serves up iconic detective novelist Dashiell Hammett getting caught up in solving a real-life mystery.

The timing is excellent, with the story being set in the late 1920s, after Hammett was no longer working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency but before he became a successful author. The tale begins with our hero – played by Frederic Forrest – typing out one of his penny-a-word Pulp stories for Black Mask Magazine, which was to detective fiction what Weird Tales was to horror and sci-fi.

hammett 2Booze and coughing fits figure prominently in the movie, as you would expect given a protagonist who was an alcoholic with tuberculosis. For the sake of convenience the story that Hammett just finished before blacking out was one featuring his character the Continental Op (as in an operative for the fictional Continental Detective Agency).  

Hammett awakens to find his most recent work being read by Jimmy Ryan (Peter Boyle), his old mentor from his Pinkerton days. Ryan jokes with “Sam” (Samuel Dashiell Hammett was his full name if you’re new to all things Hammett) that the “man with no name” in the story seems to be based on him (Ryan) and the way he operates.

Eventually Jimmy gets to the point: he saved Hammett’s life when our hero was new at detective work, and Ryan is finally calling in the debt that Sam owes him for that. The former colleague thus lures Hammett back into detective work for one last case. Continue reading

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FRONTIERADO FLASHMAN: FLASHMAN AND THE REDSKINS (1982)

Frontierado is fast approaching! Friday, August 2nd is the big day! Here’s my January review of Flashman and the Redskins again since it’s appropriate to the holiday. 

Alan Bates -better Flashman than MalcolmFor Balladeer’s Blog’s Number One Harry Flashman Novel click HERE  . 

For background info on George MacDonald Fraser’s infamous anti-hero Harry Paget Flashman you can also click that link.

 

flashman and the redskins 27. FLASHMAN AND THE REDSKINS (1982)

Time Period: Part One – 1849-1850, Part Two – 1875-1876

The Flashman novels jump around to different periods of the fictional Harry Flashman’s life. This book covers his adventures with the Forty-Niners on the way to the California gold fields as well as his much later involvement in the Sioux Uprising.

Favorite Book Blurb: “The West is just wild about Harry!” (It came long before “See what I did there?” was a thing, but the sentiment still applies.) 

NOTE: Once again Fraser used the structure of a swashbuckling, guns-blazing adventure story to cast his critical eye on some of the Great Names and Great Events of the 19th Century. Get ready for another generous helping of “History Noir” as only George could write it: by blending fact, fiction and satirical subtext in a way which scandalizes BOTH the political right AND the left.

And as always when viewed against the backdrop of history’s major atrocities the amoral carnal and monetary pursuits of that British blackguard Harry Paget Flashman look almost harmless by comparison.  

flashman and the redskinsSynopsis: The plot of Flashman and the Redskins picks up immediately after the end of Flash For Freedom (1971). Still stranded without funds in 1849 America our antihero returns to the welcoming arms – and bed – of brothel madam Susie Willink. That voluptuous MILF has been bitten by the Gold Bug and invites Harry to join her and her stable of prostitutes as part of a wagon train headed to California.

Soon the expatriate British Cavalry Officer is traipsing across the continent alongside the young Kit Carson himself. Harry, Kit, Susie and their wagon train wind up negotiating with and/or fighting Pawnee, Arapaho and other assorted tribes of Native Americans as well as combating cholera, thirst and hunger along the way.

Since Fraser can never resist slipping Flashman into tantalizingly unresolved historical footnotes we get Harry’s account of the mysterious final days at the original Bent’s Fort. Tossed in for good measure we learn that our favorite British scoundrel was the man who supposedly taught the young Crazy Horse how to wink, which was reportedly a very UN-Oglala-like thing to do.  Continue reading

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PRETTY PIERRE: GAMBLER-GUNSLINGER OF CANADA

The Frontierado Holiday coming up on Friday August 2nd is all about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality.

Gilbert ParkerPRETTY PIERRE – Created by Canadian author Gilbert Parker, Pretty Pierre was a Canadian version of fictional American Western Pulp Heroes like Deadwood Dick and many others. Pierre was a smuggler and gambler/gunslinger whose adventures took place in Canada and Alaska in the late 1800s. 

The very first Pretty Pierre story, The Patrol of the Cypress Hills, was published in The Independent in 1890. Many stories followed and were published in two collections: Pierre and His People (1892) and Pierre, A Romany of the Snows (1896).

That second collection was published in England under the title An Adventurer of the North in 1898, often leading to the mistaken belief that there are actually three separate collections of Pierre short stories but this is not the case.  

Pierre was the son of a Canadian woman and a Native American of no specific designation. The Pretty One was raised by his father’s people for a time then began moving in white Canadian circles. His good looks and elegant clothing earned him his nickname but he made his living as a gambler/gunslinger and as a smuggler (Think of the real-life Montana Kid, covered previously here at Balladeer’s Blog). Continue reading

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LOST FLASHMAN PAPERS

After my 9th anniversary post for Balladeer’s Blog on the 21st I got reader requests to centralize some links for the Lost Flashman Papers blog posts that I’ve done. So here we go:

Lee Horsley good Flashman

Lee Horsley: If British, the perfect Flashman.

FLASHMAN DOWN UNDER – Time Period: 1850-1852. Features Harry’s adventures during the early days of the Australian Gold Rush. CLICK HERE

FLASHMAN IN THE OPIUM WAR – Time Period: 1859-1860. Covers Flashman’s escapades in China during the Second Opium War, ending just before Flashman and the Dragon would begin. CLICK HERE 

FLASHMAN AND THE KINGS – Time Period: 1860-1861. Phoebe Carpenter and her husband drag Harry into the Taranaki War in New Zealand. CLICK HERE

crossed sabresTHE BATTLE CRY OF FLASHMAN – Time Period: 1862-1863. How Flashman – for entirely selfish reasons while being blackmailed by President Abraham Lincoln and Alan Pinkerton – secretly prevented Great Britain from recognizing the Confederate States of America. CLICK HERE 

FLASHMAN ON THE GOLD COAST – Time Period: 1873-1874. Chronicles Sir Harry’s exploits during the Third Ashanti War, serving under General Garnet Wolseley. CLICK HERE

Arabian PeninsulaFLASHMAN OF ARABIA – Time Period: 1852-1854. Harry’s exotic adventures after getting separated from Richard Burton, the famous explorer, during Burton’s covert journey to Mecca and Medina while disguised as a Muslim pilgrim. CLICK HERE 

FLASHMAN’S GUIANA – Time Period: 1876-1877. Sir Harry and his wife Elspeth leave America behind them, only to get caught up in a search for gold in the region of British Guiana being fought over by Venezuela and Great Britain. CLICK HERE  

 

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FLASHMAN’S GUIANA: LOST FLASHMAN PAPERS

Flashman faceFor Flashman Down Under, Flashman in the Opium War & Flashman and the Kings click HERE   For Flashman on the Gold Coast click HERE  For Flashman of Arabia click HERE 

Balladeer’s Blog now moves on to another Harry Flashman adventure never completed before George MacDonald Fraser’s death.

Lee Horsley Flashman

IF HE WAS BRITISH, LEE HORSLEY WOULD HAVE MADE A PERFECT HARRY FLASHMAN.

Projected Title: FLASHMAN’S GUIANA

Time Period: 1876-1877

NOTE: The title Flashman’s Guiana is a play on “Booker’s Guiana,” as the colony of British Guiana (19th century spelling) was often sardonically referred to in the 1800s. That reference came about from the way the Booker business empire virtually ran the colony. From a 21st Century standpoint we might look on it in a sinister Weyland-Yutani way.

… Strictly for storytelling purposes, of course, if you’re a lawyer representing the Booker Group. Honest. Really. (Although after this latest merger I don’t know if anybody would still care.) Anyway, as you readers have requested, this time I’ll establish the action then go back to detail the setup.

crossed sabresThe Action: Sir Harry Flashman and his wife Elspeth visit British Guiana right after their American Tour ended in August, 1876. A combination of Her Majesty’s Government’s interests and Flashman’s own hunger for large amounts of filthy luchre to sustain his and Elspeth’s grand new lifestyle wind up launching the British blackguard into his latest adventure.

Sword and pistols in hand, Harry leaves Elspeth back in the capital city of Georgetown while he takes part in a covert search for gold in the jungle region disputed by Great Britain and Venezuela. Continue reading

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FLASHMAN OF ARABIA: LOST FLASHMAN PAPERS

Lee Horsley tubFor Flashman Down Under, Flashman in the Opium War & Flashman and the Kings click HERE   For Flashman on the Gold Coast click HERE  . Balladeer’s Blog now moves on to another Harry Flashman adventure referred to but never completed before George MacDonald Fraser’s death.

Lee Horsley Flashman

IF HE WAS BRITISH, LEE HORSLEY WOULD HAVE MADE A PERFECT HARRY FLASHMAN.

Projected Title: FLASHMAN OF ARABIA

Time Period: 1852-1854

The Setup: Sometime in the second half of 1852 Harry Flashman at last arrives back in England from his travels which began in 1848. The scandals he fled have fallen into relative obscurity and he’s getting some positive acclaim over his recent experiences during the Australian Gold Rush and earlier participation in a wagon train across America.

In addition he’s finally gotten to see his son “Havvy” (not Harry), the child his wife Elspeth was pregnant with when his travels began.

The Story: The one and only Richard Burton, viewing Harry as a kindred spirit, reaches out via correspondence and personally to encourage Flashman to write some papers and deliver public talks about his journey through America and Australia. Always ready to play to his public, and now discovering the raconteur side of his personality, Harry writes a (very) bowdlerized account of his adventures of the past four years and even delivers a few talks at which he meets Burton in person.  

Burton's bookThe duo enjoy diving into the darker and more forbidden side of life where sex, booze and other diversions are concerned. Flashman happens to be with Burton in Egypt in early 1853 when the famous explorer begins his journey to Medina and Mecca disguised as a Muslim.

We will learn he originally invited Harry to accompany him, since our protagonist was fluent in the necessary languages and was well-versed in Muslim customs from his military service in Afghanistan in the early 1840s. Flashman would have initially turned down the offer and stayed behind in Egypt until, getting into his usual trouble from boozing, whoring and gambling he would wind up fleeing for his life. Continue reading

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FLASHMAN NOVELS: TENTH PLACE

Flashman faceFor Balladeer’s Blog’s Number One Harry Flashman Novel click HERE .

For background info on George MacDonald Fraser’s infamous anti-hero Harry Paget Flashman you can also click that link. 

Royal Flash wideview10. ROYAL FLASH (1970)

Time Period: The Revolutions of 1848 (1847-1848)

Favorite Book Blurbs: “Just when the Revolutions of 1848 are sweeping across Europe … Just when the masses are rising up against their ages-old masters … Just when no throne seems safe from the emerging wave of egalitarianism … Yes, just when being a monarch is synonymous with being a marked man, guess who should find himself forced into masquerading as a certain pompous, blue-blooded boor? “ 

Royal Flash 3“Horse riding, sword fighting, brawling, drinking and humping, Harry is always in the thick of 19th Century history! This time the lusty scoundrel is tangled up in political intrigues involving Otto Von Bismarck, Lola Montez, Karl Marx and the Schleswig-Holstein Question.”

NOTE: Please don’t judge this novel based on the god-awful movie adaptation from 1975. For the role of Harry Flashman you need a handsome, charming British version of James Garner. Alan Bates would have made a much better Flashman than Malcolm McDowell in my opinion, but he was instead cast as Rudi Von Starnberg (I could picture the 1975 Timothy Dalton as Rudi to Bates’ Flashman.)  

And yes, I know George MacDonald Fraser worked on the screenplay but in my view Director Richard Lester overdid the goofiness level on the movie, just like he did with Superman III. Instead of shooting for Anthony Valentine’s Raffles series crossed with Tom Jones and Barry Lyndon, Lester treated this like a British Don Knotts movie. Or, God forbid, Jerry Lewis.

Lola MontezSynopsis: Harry Flashman, fleeing a police raid on a gambling establishment he was frequenting, winds up meeting the legendary real-life adventuress Lola Montez, one of the few women to tug at Flashman’s heart, not just his man-parts. During their romantic nine-day wonder of wild love-making and tempestuous quarreling, Harry also winds up clashing with future statesman Otto Von Bismarck in clubrooms, on the hunt and on the riding range.

Following a bitter breakup with the lovely Lola as well as outdoing Bismarck on the social circuit, Flashman little dreams that the vengeful duo will team up and use him as a sacrificial pawn in political intrigues. When Lola uses her overwhelming beauty and dazzling personality to wrap King Ludwig of Bavaria around her little finger (as historically DID happen) she summons Harry to Munich, supposedly to bury the hatchet and join her stud-line of lovers on the side.   Continue reading

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