Jesse, Maissa Bessada, and Will Emmons talk about Passport To Peril by Lawrence Block
Talked about on today’s show:
Anne Campbell Clark, 1967, internal stuff, guess what year this photo was taken, asking about JFK like he was still alive, Teddy Kennedy, the Irish connection, proud of him being president, very few people have read this, a book worthy of reading, noped out, pretty horrific, too sunk into it, a cocoon of singing and countryside, a lovely little book, not going anywhere and not upset about it, almost plotless, not all books need to have plots, spending time with Hobbits in Hobbiton, an old lady who likes to bicycle, red herrings, Will’s first Lawrence Block, the trip to the countryside, all of the lovely singing, I never shall marry as long as I live, really liked this book, who is the audience, Helen MacInnes readers, neither had Lawrence Block, spies with a little romance, romance with a little bit of spies, how smooth did this go down, easy drinking all the way through, it was a formula, the bad guy came around, there he is, why does that priest want her passport, maybe I’ve misjudged him, he’s back, women protagonists, usually a male, page by page, line by line, a little bit much, intoxicated, a 24 year old in 1967, the height of the sexual revolution, chaste for a folk-singer, they get snug and snuggle, she hides her nudity, not so folksy as one might imagine in real life, the scene with the IRA, pastiche-ish, that part never happened when Lawrence Block went to Ireland, a massive amount of violence, let’s go have a party, one of them gets shot and they keep having a party, movie-like, none of the dialogue felt clunky, what kind of folk-singing, Airplane!, lady with a guitar, inspirational songs vs. historical events, WWII essay, WWI, WWI’s influence on Ireland, the Irish Rising, home-rule in 1922, according to Star Trek [The Next Generation] and Mr. Data they’re going to reunite next year, all of us under the British rule, the overlords in Egypt, real bastards, it doesn’t translate across generations as well, gearing up, the ultimate McGuffin, because of the title, back to the passport, easy listening, P.J. Morgan, a lot of singing, male voices too, accents, a really good job, if I was P.J. Morgan and I had finished this book I would be superhappy with myself, a recipe, 191 pages, 5 hours 38 minutes, a short novel, a young lady who goes on a trip, chased across the countryside, a monster, a hero, delivering what women want, nice and smooth, the historical research, enthusiastic about Irish history, great fun, a double checkmark, creepy and scary quite late, when’s it gonna turn, grusome, burned to death, legs blown off, shoots somebody’s brains out, starts with a horrible murder, really violent, a nice guy from Philadelphia to leg cling to, a nice old lady who gets strangled off screen, the German guy with a family, what happened to the kids?, the casting room, spy training school, the woman with the red hair, in the ring?, a nice Londoner, leaving cards together, he’s playing a great great game, I need to tip my hand, when Ellen gets into the car with the priest, you’re just ahead of her, ahead of Jesse, I wish I knew my Irish history better, a really good promoter of stuff on his blog, the afterword, the blog post about Passport To Peril
In 1966 I was living at 16 Stratford Place, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. I’d spent a year in Wisconsin as an editor in the coin supply division of Western Printing, and just when it looked as though I might have a future in the corporate world, I realized it was the last thing I wanted. I’d been writing books all along, and I moved east and resumed writing full-time.
My agent, Henry Morrison, came to me with an assignment. Lancer Books, for whom I’d written a few books during Larry T. Shaw’s editorship, wanted to publish a romantic-espionage thriller in the tradition of Helen MacInnes. I hadn’t read anything by Ms. MacInnes, though I knew the byline; her books were published in hardcover, and frequently wound up on bestseller lists. Mine would be published as a paperback original, and bestseller status would be not even a fleeting dream.
I don’t know if I actually read any of the books which were to be my model. I probably skimmed a couple. I knew what was required—a clean sweet likable American girl as the heroine, a reasonably exotic foreign locale, and a couple of people who were not what they appeared to be, including an evident villain who turned out to be the unlikely hero and love interest, and a dashingly attractive good guy who turned out to be an absolute rotter.
I could do that.
And I knew just where to set it. Ireland. Where else?
I’d actually been to Ireland, which gave it a leg up on the rest of the world. In the fall of 1964, a few months after the move to Racine, my wife and I flew to Limerick and spent the better part of two weeks driving around Ireland. We had a day in Edinburgh and a few days in England, but Ireland got the bulk of our business.
Aside from brief forays into Canada and Mexico, this was my first time out of the States, and if it felt like an adventure, it felt even more like a homecoming. It’s clear to me that I spent at least one past life in Ireland. Among my earliest memories are ones of listening to Irish songs on the radio. (There was a girl who sang “Toora-loora-loora” on a local amateur show, and I’m pleased to report that she was the winner three weeks running.) I had a set of the Book of Knowledge, and from it I learned all the lyrics to Wearin’ o’ the Green.
When I had begun selling short fiction and was casting about for a book to write, I decided a novel of the Irish rebellion and civil war might be a good choice. But what did I know about it? I amassed an extensive library of English and Irish history, and read a surprising amount of it. And, around the time that my interest in numismatics was steering me toward the job in Wisconsin, I began collecting Irish coins and tokens and medals.
No question, then. I’d set the book in Ireland.
Ever since the trip, I’d been picking up records of Irish folk music. The Clancy Brothers, of course, but also a slew of Folkways albums on which various singers, some more gifted than others, collected songs of the 1798 Rising and other blighted periods in the land’s sad history. As G.K. Chesterton wrote:
For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.
Well, why not make my heroine a folksinger? Why not send her to Ireland to collect songs? There, of course, she could meet the wolf in sheep’s clothing, and the sheep in wolf’s clothing, and things would look decidedly dark for a while, but eventually the sun would burst through. I mean, it would have to, sooner or later. As far as we could make out, it was always either raining or about to rain in Ireland, but maybe I could cheat and have a little sunshine toward the end.
I went to New York to write the book. Don Westlake had sublet a studio apartment on West 24th Street in Chelsea; he’d lived there briefly, during a marital rough spot, and kept it as a sometimes office until the lease was up. I moved in, and brought home Passport to Peril ten days later. I don’t know if the title was mine, though I rather think it was. I know the pen name was mine, and I know that forty-five years later nobody else on earth knew it.
Henry knew back then, but I’m sure he’s long since forgotten. My first wife would have known, but I don’t think she ever read the book, and would be surprised if she recalls anything about it. Irwin Stein at Lancer would have known, but would have had no reason to remember. Among the book-collecting fraternity, no one had a clue. This book, and Fidel Castro Assassinated!, are the two works of mine that somehow escaped detection. The latter, written under the name Lee Duncan, was recently reprinted as Killing Castro by Hard Case Crime, and has since become available as an OpenRoad eBook. Passport to Peril now makes its first post-Lancer appearance as an e-book, and I can only hope you’ve enjoyed it.
I read it myself recently to ready it for publication, and I was surprised to find that I liked it. Remember what Yeats wrote?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave. . .
True too of the Ireland of the 1960s. It was a curious pleasure to revisit the time and place, if in my own work.
the exact same thing, good at remembering how things happened in the 60s, very Lawrence Blocky, passionate about foreign revolutions, a CIA plot to kill Castro, a cheque to the farmer with the dead sheep, what ever revolution is happning in that country, the Evan Tanner series, comedic and silly, almost perfect for what its doing, broader, like James Bond, cartoonish, fun but silly, a Korean war veteran, shrapnel in his head gives him a superpower, The Thief Who Couldn’t Sleep, why readers would like a book like this, I become a supergenius, whatever republic that wants freedom from colonialism, participating in their revolutions, joke book, The Canceled Czech, light and fluffy, Tanner On Ice, literally frozen, a participant in the ideas the book he is producing, numismatics, a book on racewalking, walk faster than other people, the Hit Man/Hit List series, cozy, there’s a guy in Mexico who needs to be shot, I like Mexico, observations in a restaurant, really into stamp collecting, an action scene, whatever subject he turns his attention to becomes a very very readable book, can you write a book about assassinating Castro?, technically required to do this, Will material?, not-enough enthusiasm, emphasis and underlining and exclamation marks, Classic Crime Library number 15, how quiet it has been resting, Lawrence Block took control of his publishing, he’s the one, making you buy his stuff, around an participating in his estate, incredible, he’s so good, Westlake through Block, turns out its a real book, Westlake’s highs are higher but Block’s more consistent, a lady on vacation, why that guy slipped, an excuse to have her in peril, an excuse to have a lady chased by spies, maybe she will marry, he was trying to be caught, no one knew, there’s a tip off, out of genre for most of the people who read Lawrence Block, she goes to a movie, something drums, “A Sound Of Distant Drums”, a calling card, or a signature, somebody coming out of a movie theater, that’s cool, his Burglar series, The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart, The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian, topic books, exploring some little niche, standup comedians bits they connect together, researching and polishing ideas, Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, the girlfriend is the murderer, settles into a formula, really really fun, passes the time, go have a sandwich, oh yeah one of these, that paperback book industry is where he really lives, take a paperback and enjoy the weekend, a song saved her life, why I like folksinging now, Kumbaya, historical information, how to be, in America 2, here 12, makes you want to drink stout, listen to folk music, the festival circuit, the premise of this book, the state department in real life is evil, spread American culture, money spent on evil not on good, cultural activities, Eastern block, throw money at a problem, Lawrence Block needed to have an excuse, her family’s all killed off, one and done, they’re happy and their Irish now, both green, 2 cigarettes, more cigarettes, they stopped to buy more cigarettes, the new taste, so much smoking, they don’t need food they’re thin and young, dates the book, you could write this book, their sten guns would be something else, Berlin, Ukraine or something, delightful little book, make you say “I’d like some stout.”, Guinness, a wish fulfillment fantasy romance, read the back cover, little tipsy here and there, poignant moments, the songs, the stories, a Brothers Grimm thing, went out to all the pubs, music and stories are the same, all personal histories, probably wrong, music that’s close to the people, in the process of collecting these folk songs there’s some exploitation, selling a record, who’s going to see the proceeds of that record, what is the purpose of this?, to commoditization it?, spread it?, share it?, Stan Rogers, Barrett’s Privateers, east coast Nova Scotia Irish kitchen, a fun song, it has swearing a letter of marque, Sherbrooke, god damn them all, Halifax, the staggers and jags, such a good singer, sea shanty folk song, Montego Bay, sailing terms, incapable of catching a slow moving ship, smashed like a bowl of eggs, both me legs, in my 23rd year, six whole years, War of 1812, while you’re paying attention, similar to The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, a homeless beggar on a pier, the big Coleridge poem, the same story as Annabelle Lee, grateful and thankful, what has Will been doing?, back into politics, a tenant union, a communist caucus in the DSA, COVID last months, 2 and a half weeks, testing positive, not very sick, flu-like symptoms, paxlovid, our medicines don’t protect us or help us, that’s crazy, a lot of cat action happening, a core group of nine cats, stranger cats, a high number of a cats, all feral, the boys that aren’t fixed are both named Brandon, one darker than the other, let’s go Brandon, telling the Brandons apart, laser eyes, that’s the dark Brandon, smaller feet, chipmunk feet, Brooklyn Dad Defiant, a very 90s name that’s a 2020s name, Owen with Gs, beg to come inside, Tobias, to bite toes, a bias towards toes, a negotiation, mother and grandmother of them all, a mean old cat, a sour disposition, the dog will let her, irritable, you can just come and rub up on my dog, mean old girls, on the roof some, Maissa’s fascinating life, editing Ace Galaksi, social media stuff, blogs and newsletters, let’s do an internal podcast, a link on the dl, what is Maissa’s job?, lots of divisions, pr, edit videos, write and produce pr things, listen to the podcast, if I need to know, 15 minutes at most, once a month, reediting a novel for 20 years, middle school, rewrite a billion time, I got out my library card…, regarding that game [chronophoto], everybody’s wearing fucking masks, anytime after 1950, AOC, 2018, an I voted sticker, eerily obvious what year it is, figure out what year that was, talking about Kennedy being president but not talking about Kennedy being assassinated, in county Cork, is the book dated?, no, it’s a period piece, au courant, everybody’s playing with their iPhone 6, bullying each other, only play with a group, a couple repeats, playing PUBG, a faster version of the game, early January, online vs. in person, got rid of some old computers, that to lean on, Scott does the editing for Reading, Short And Deep, 4-6 hours per day, 8 hour days are horrible, and the show’s over, 10 hours per day, send me a secret signal, Burn Notice, a comiccon, Battlestar Galactica, Archer, a throwback, Pulpcovers/Alex, the last of an earlier era of television, problem of the week, and a weak overriding plot every season, he used to be spy, just a premise for the show, exotic locale, it has a car, 80s, A-Team van, Kitt from Knight Rider, Dukes Of Hazzard, the car is the star of the show, an actor based show, Gabrielle Anwar, an IRA terrorist, Jeffrey Donovan, Bruce Campbell is the sidekick, the Evil Dead series, Sharon Gless, Cagney & Lacey, flip phones, 2005-2011 show, a fine show, a comic book, a sidekick on Xena, western shows, The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr., short lived Fox shows, Zorro style, Jack Of All Trades, what you can do while you’re at work, a half hour syndicated action comedy, 1801, East Indies, a swordfighting, masks, Napoleon Bonaparte is character, Mr. Charismatic on screen, bicker in fun ways, a good fun show, Spider-Man villains, Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), Elvis and JFK, it should be an amazing movie, a little long in the tooth, the cylon lady, Lucy Lawless, you see those people together, the Spartacus tv series, Blood And Sand, 300 (2006), the acting and the dynamics, a slave morality show, diaries?, slave folk heroes, Kirk Douglas, what would it mean to be a slave, having sex with the slaves, a great villainess, New Zealanders, Evan agrees, a slave rebellion, the servile war, amazing history, super-compelling on-screen performances, green screen, practical sets, thinking of it as a play, a tool to get stuff done, laidoff, Vikings was a better show, blood eagle, why you don’t want piss the vikings off, doesn’t overstay its welcome, a maori gladiator, sticking to the facts is fascinating, what is it like to be a celebrity slave, I am Spartacus, a consciousness raising movie, also very sexy, they’re sexy too, regretful but should be done, killing the masters, killed in the end, sexy jumping naked slaves, emotional resonance, very underrated show, 39 episodes, 2013, All In The Family, Happy Days, about as substantial, a monologue about Riverdale, too soap opera, just soap opera enough, Twin Peaks, the original, Deep Space Nine, a very resonant show, better is substantial ways, Miles got trapped in the mine for 20 years, extreme amounts of trauma, poor Miles O’Brien, his wife doesn’t love him, his kid doesn’t care about him, the writers were picking on him, Canadian?, Irish movies, the Canadian film industry, Black Summer, a Netflix show, Calgary, that explains it, the old zombie trope, you are the camera, you don’t know why, you follow that person for a while, this is our main character, nope, they’re killed, weird compared to regular television, Z Nation, an art film, the Asylum, notorious for making cheapo rip off movies, a company designed to make money, the coattails of Hollwood, Sharknado, very surprising, going back all the way, April 2019, not a show like Star Trek Discovery, storytelling techniques that have lain follow, basically praise, the endless sprawling suburbs of Calgary, Alberta, The Crazies (1973), worthy of attention, only one trick: surprise!, the trick works a lot, Stephen King’s The Shining, The Picture In The House by H.P. Lovecraft and Pigeons From Hell by Robert E. Howard, White House-style, axed by ghosts of slavery, based on a black person’s story told to him, a traditional slave folktale, pretty scary, a TV adaptation, anti-mystery box show, sparse in dialogue, what the fuck is going on and why am I so scared, The Extraordinary Attorney Woo, sweet and innocent, childlike, well packaged, young and more than middle aged, a broad range of interests, I think you want it to be great, sweet and fun, Korean film and television industry, clips of this autistic lady, The Admiral: Roaring Currents (2013), Yi Sun-Shin, Korean George Washington, defeated Japan, 12 Korean ships vs. 333 Japanese ships, a slog, historical epics, great horror movies, The Host (2006), the Americans pollute the Han river, evil tank juice, a Godzilla movie, lighter than Train To Busan (2016), kaiju, the worst Korean accent ever, A Man Called Ove (2015), enforcing block association rules, boisterous new neighbors, spends half the movie trying to kill himself, when a movie is not so good, theatering?, Avatar 2, beautiful and too long and mostly a setup for the next one, every crew has a crazyass white boy, very satisfying to see giant arrows go through people, a very clunky writer, repeated himself, Titanic (1997) has gravitas, a big weighty movie, Avatar 3 The Way Of The Rocks, the four elements, exhausted its idea, the na’vi won, Dances With Wolves in space, free of his bad body, a trans story, the transgender kid episode of The Orville, too Star Warsy, special effects heavy, the other way around, show the gender surgery working, trying to sell it on an alien, Ezri vs. Jadzia Dax, a funny situation, Macklin?, they’re both boys, hilarious, like Star Trek but funny, less funny, less good, very wrong of them, Obi-Won was horrible, Andor is not shit, Stalin robbing a bank, a heist show, Diego Luna, Star Wars: Rogue One, many boffins died for this thumbdrive, slow paced, beautifully framed, casting is pretty good, Star Wars writing has been shit, hang out with some labourers, smart but evil, political aspect, Blesson Yates, Imani Pullum [playing Topa], IMDB is getting shitty, a fill-in show, The Venom Business by Michael Crichton, Nazis on the Moon, Evan Lampe started a podcast series reading through everything Heinlein wrote, talked him into it, and maybe Mark Twain, Pirate Enlightenment, Or The Real Libertalia by David Graber, he’s been posthumous for a while, I’m posthumousing right now, autistic style take, all the same, his third posthumous book, “enlightenment, liberty, socialism all the same thing”, hey that’s us!, a radical social experiment, The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sherriff, The Crawlers by Philip K. Dick, crawling abortions being run over by trucks, pretty great story, The Pre-Persons, a weird guy, an interview with Ray Faraday Nelson’s kid, David Agranoff, Philip K. Dick: babysitter, Philip K. Dick shows a 7-year old his derringer, why you have a derringer?, what are you thinking?, this is America, man, too American, we just got problem, do something different in this country, Four-Day Planet by H. Beam Piper, Poul Anderson sword and sandal, Francis Stevens is always interesting, dystopia in Philadelphia, The Heads Of Cerberus, a weird lady, what the fancy people do, Unseen-Unfeared, a few things missing, first published in 1904, Jean Veil, People’s Favorite Magazine, a low rent Italian restaurant, he sells love charms, not tempting, a review by E.F. Bleiler, guy breaks into a house, fights with best friend, a knock at the door, the safe was open, very convoluted, a phial with a stopper with the heads of Cerberus, Dante’s gate, no diamonds in here, what did you do with my cousin, alternate 2018, weird dystopia, no names, just numbers, Mr. Handsome gets a municipal job, a fascist state?, goes in the pit, head of the music department, it’s like the Hugo awards, also stirred up the ashes, seat of her pants, spinning up ideas, opposite of well put together, ideas like rockets going off, Science Fiction The Early Years, Guide To Supernatural Fiction, emdash, 729 pages, a special photographic filter, the soul of a recent suicide, only like an hour, how hard is it to do 47 minutes, we had a good chat, Evan’s been sick, isn’t Paul always at a convention?, socialize, Paul is lonely Libra, Jesse’s just a cancer on society, someplace, pulpcon, money, hassle at the borders, no excuses, lining up for celebrities, Pavel Chekov’s signature, the conversations at the panels are surficial, Pulpfest, 2016, intervening years, a long drive, pulps were more expensive, pandemic prices, Planet Stories for $20, hold it in your hand, oooh look at that ooh!, stay up all night talking to people, if Cirsova were in local stores, Jesse doesn’t want to support Amazon, good used bookstores, lesbian couples are in it for the long haul, a trope almost, they’re bookish, Little Sisters, super-prudes, super-evil, a place of prominence, rent is low somewhere, small town Alberta, a town full of Mormons, an amazing town, Cardston, Alberta, Justice League building, Fortress of Solitude, something out of Ayn Rand, it looks like a bank, cost of living, inflation, $850 for a 3 bedroom and big yard, what does that get you?, giant assessments, working online, the fever has not yet broken on covid, an excuse to fuck everybody and line pockets, definitively its a wash, almost none of the positives are with spreading the disease around, wrecked the industry for in-person tutoring, in person classrooms, kids don’t learn very well online, Paul’s masked up at his convention, the vaccines don’t work for almost any of the people getting them, let’s go back to business as usual, tele-judge, on trial with the judge not in the room, fixed camera, ai shit, a program that you run, that changes where your eyes are focused to make it look at the camera, creepy and interesting, simulated real-life but also fake, no modesty at all, Hawaiian Mormon templeing, nice people, just in this life, Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card is a black name, church homophobia, he’s following his church beliefs, this is the doctrine of my church, and I contribute money to prevent people from getting married, religious objections vs. non-religious objections to abortion, Scott is quite nuanced, say things in a polite way, the same claim about the papists, pushing babies into wombs, bio-ethicists say it is okay to use brain dead women’s bodies, clickbait shit, frustrating fun game, coffee, I can still have coffee, too shaky, three cups max, a catfood shortage, egg pricing, incompetence of a cat named Brandon, personally responsible for inflation, not solving problems, price controls, stick it to the egg industry, milk control board, 59% increase in egg prices, realer food, no-corn in Canadian pop, some breads without soy, Italy has basically real food, pink slime, slight advantages to higher food prices, wrangle some cats, try to find cat food, inexpensive kibble, possums, raccoons.