The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 19, 1995 · Page 25
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 25

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Salina, Kansas
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Friday, May 19, 1995
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Page 25
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The Salina Journal Friday, May 19, 1995 D3 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ghghghg The Real Mike Hammer 77-year-old writer Mickey Spillane returns to comic book roots By BRUCE SMITH The Associated Press M URRELLS INLET, S.C. — The warmth of an April sun clings like perfume to a cheap suit as gumshoe Mike Hammer's alter-ego, mystery writer Mickey Spillane, greets us from the wooden deck of his waterfront home. "Like my Carolina Cadillac?" he asks, pointing to a white Ford pickup truck in the carport. This day, with the mercury heading toward 90, Spillane wants to talk of his return to his comic book roots after a half century. So a photographer and I head to the 'burg where he's hung out for more than four decades. This 77-year-old writer, actor, television pitchman and one-man literary empire could live anywhere he wants — Los Angeles, New York, the south of France. But he chose a South Carolina fishing village lined with seafood eateries. He lives in a modest home with his beloved fishing boat parked on the grass in front. Hammer would go stir crazy here, but Spillane visited in the early 1950s, liked what he saw, and settled for good. Spillane, whose novels have sold more than 180 million copies, leads us into a tiny office off the porch. The carpet is blue-gray; the sunlight soft as it filters onto a cluttered desk through Venetian blinds. He explains that before Hammer and those millions of books, he created a comic book detective named Mike Danger. At the time, the early '40s, he was scribing for Batman, SubMariner and other comics. "I wanted to get away from the flying heroes and I. had the prototype cop," says the writer, who still hammers away with two fingers on a vintage gray Smith-Corona manual with dark green keys. He calls it his mistress. Danger never saw print. The Big One broke out and Spillane enlisted. When World War II was over, he came home and wrote the Hammer novels. The comic book idea was put aside for more than 50 years. Tekno-Comix will bring Danger to print next month. Danger, the prototypical '50s detective, will be transported to the 21st century, but he'll get entwined in the usual entanglements and the usual dolls. "They do a Rip Van Winkle on him," Spillane said. "I have said for a long time that Mike Hammer was based on Mike Danger." Spillane may even write some of the plots. But, like his other literary endeavors, "it all depends on whether the fish are biting or not biting." If they're not, and Spillane needs some cash, he sits at the 30-year-old Smith-Corona. He has eight of the machines — another that works and six he uses for parts. He keeps a shelf of dental tools above his desk — not to pull the truth from a suspect but to repair his typewriters. "This is music to my ears," said the writer, who disdains computers as machines "for girl typists whose pinkies are weak." For Spillane, this business of writing is simply that, a business. "I don't write for fans. I write for customers," he said. "When you're good to your customers they're good to you." EXCERPTS "I felt Carol's hand on my arm and looked over at her. There was a smile on her mouth and a lifetime in her eyes. "You're a great actor, Rich," she said. I sensed the words more than heard them." — from "TOMORROW I DIE," a short story, 1956. "They killed Squeaky Williams on the steps of the Criminal Courts Building with two beautifully placed slugs in the middle of his back and got away into traffic before anybody really knew what had happened. But I knew what happened and my guts felt all tight and dry just standing there looking at his scrawny, frozen face in the drawer of the morgue locker. One eye was still partly open and was staring at me. 'Identify him?' the attendant asked." — from "THE GOLD FEVER TAPES," a short story, 1973. Kids should love updated 'Jungle Book' • Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway' also worth seeing By MAX MCQUEEN Cox News Service R udyard Kipling wrote stories for children, such as "Kim." He also wrote for adults, such as "Gunga Din." But his most enduring tale of life in India appeals to all ages: "The Jungle Book." For inspiration, Disney's 1994 live-action remake looks more to the 1942 film than the '67 hit. As in the 1942 feature, Mowgli is played more as an adult, as per the winsome Jason Scott Lee. His main tasks are to save a long-lost love (Lena Headey) and guard a treasure-ladened temple from "bad guys." This "Jungle Book" is a family-friendly adventure that should find strong appeal among video viewers, ages 6 to 13. video corner Bullets Over Broadway "Bullets Over Broadway" is far from Woody Allen's best, its seven Oscar nominations notwithstanding. It's just that 1994 was such a weak year for well-written film roles, "Broadway's" performances stood out. However, I won't deny Dianne Wiest her Oscar for best supporting actress. In a film about the painful birth of a Broadway play, Wiest is a textbook example of how an actor can give their all to an ensemble while rising above the crowd. Wiest does that as an aging star on the comeback trail. Allen gets exemplary work from Jim Broadbent, John Cusack, Chazz Palminteri, Jennifer Tilly and Tracey Ullman. Each has their panicked moment in the spotlight as part of a theater production backed by ruthless gangsters. It's all in good fun. So much so that "Bullets Over Broadway" is the funniest film by Woody Allen since before he met Mia Farrow in the late '70s. Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle Also set along the Great White Way is Alan Rudolph's bio-pic of Dorothy Parker. Jennifer Jason Leigh puts the right gritty edge on this critic-turned-screenwriter who had a razor-sharp tongue and a poison pen. Parker and her gaggle of actors, painters, reporters and hangers-on are seen mainly during their glory days at the round table of the Algonquin Hotel. In and out of Parker's moody life are the likes of producer Charles MacArthur (Matthew Broderick) and Life critic Robert Benchley (Campbell Scott). Video viewers unfamiliar with Parker's inside circle will have a hard time getting into this film. Speechless Somewhere between the page and the screen, "Speechless" went wrong. To be sure, Robert King's screenplay about rival political speech- writers doesn't conjure visions of Tracy and Hepburn, but it's not bad by today's monosylabic standards. So why don't Geena Davis and Michael Keaton click as witty, ambitious and seasoned riders of the campaign trail? It comes down to chemistry. Or the lack of it between "Speechless's" stars, high roadster. But sparks never really fly between Davis and Keaton. Norman Mailer should have stayed back in the U.S.S.R. By JEFF GUINN Fort Worth Star-Telegram N orman Mailer's fascination with John F. Kennedy is well-chronicled, so it figured he someday would turn attention to the former president's alleged assassin. ' For more than 30 years, Lee Harvey Os- _ wald has held the attention of the world in much the same manner someone just bitten would fixate on a small, insignificant-looking but still deadly poisonous snake. The mistaken impulse of almost anyone picking up the lengthy (791 pages plus appendix), expensive (30 bucks) "Oswald's Tale" would bpok review be to assume Mailer brings to it the same half-truth, half-fictional approach he used with Gary Gilmore in "The Executioner's Song." That massive dive into the psyche of a mass murderer won Mailer his second Pulitzer Prize, but this entirely nonfictional examination of Oswald won't bring in a third. "Oswald's Tale" melds two entirely different books: one a fascinating, never-knew-that description of Oswald's life as an American expatriate in Russia and the other a warmed-over rehashing of Oswald's return to the United States and subsequent activities before his own murder at the hands of Jack Ruby. Had Mailer stuck to Oswald in Russia, he'd hear well-deserved praise. Mailer journeyed to Russia and lived in Minsk while on the little- documented trail of Oswald's life there. He was assisted by Larry Schiller, who with his wife did much of the interviewing of surviving Oswald acquaintances and living relatives of Marina, the young Russian woman who became one of history's more famous widows. Mailer also had access to KGB records concerning Oswald, including tapes gleaned from microphones planted in Oswald's Minsk apartment. Mailer gives us a bleak picture. Oswald was a Marxist washout from his arrival in Russia, suspected by the KGB of being an American spy and regarded with disdain instead of the hero-worship he believed he deserved. Oswald was desperate to find love with any Russian girl, but most of his relationships foundered after the novelty of dating an American wore off on the young ladies of Minsk. Enter Marina — who, Mailer's research indicates, was eager to marry after several disastrous relationships and possibly some early-life adventures in prostitution or, at least, promiscuity. Their coming together seems inevitable, as does the disharmony that soon follows. The Oswalds' troubles commence on their wedding day; Mailer's literary blundering begins after they arrive in America. We already know all the characters: bluff George De Mohren- schildt, appalling Marguerite Oswald, peace-loving Ruth Paine. Their lives and possible motives 'for doing what they did with Oswald have been examined copiously. Mailer brings nothing new to his Texas chapters and compounds this sin by quoting endlessly from other books, most notably Priscilla Johnson McMillan's "Marina and Lee." A few gratuitous slaps are taken at Fort Worth — Marina Oswald apparently didn't like it there — and Mailer tries hard to "understand" Lee Harvey Oswald, noting "it is possible that the working hypothesis" — Oswald's ability to kill Kennedy on his own — "has become more important to the author than trying to discover the truth." Mailer's summing-up is equally unoriginal. Yes, he thinks Oswald did it alone. No Mafia plot here. Mailer believes the Mafia ordered Oswald murdered by minor mobster Jack Ruby, fearing an uncle of Oswald's with tenuous mob links might cause the organization to be blamed for an assassination they applauded but did not initiate. Wait until "Oswald's Tale" comes out in paperback, probably priced near $10. The Coffee Gallery Presents Tonight "Ghost Himself" Lite Rock 7:30 -10:30 pm 2 pm 104 South 5th 913-823-5093 GOURMET COFFEE ITALIAN SODAS RETAILED ITEMS BAKED GOODS •••••••••• Jimeo Charters and Sfcarlar Tours invite you to News You Can Use i ihe Salina Journal i We Deliver Sports Scores the Salina Journal Coming this Sunday: Terms of endearment What makes a good marriage? Psychologist Judith Wallerstein's new book studies 50 happy couples to find out. Read her surprising answers and insights... in this week's USA Weekend. lhe Salina Journal USA This Q» ote , 1 For 's •Auto -Home 'Life -Health for Quality Insurance and Competitive Rates call Bonnie I NSU RANGE 823-6341 148 S. Santa Fe, Salina Bonnie J. Norton THE NEW THEATER in Overland Park, KS The Longest Running Musical Comedy Revival in Broadway History Special $45.00 p.p. FAJLL BRASS05LTQHRS Sept. 7th-10th & Oct. 23rd-27th CRIPPLE CREEK, CO June 27-28-29 CALL TODAY FOR DETAILS 800-536-2185

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