Saturday, October 24, 2015

DEATH IN THE FACE: ROBERT SHAW, ACTOR-NOVELIST


Robert Shaw: actor…novelist.

ROBERT SHAW, as RED GRANT

Chances are, you probably didn’t know about that last distinction. And more is the pity.

Shaw was quite an accomplished author. Indeed: one senses Robert Archibald Shaw was probably far more proud of his novels than his many film roles.

Pride in his books over his films is certainly the way I choose to depict Mr. Shaw in my new novel.


DEATH IN THE FACE
NOW AVAILABLE here

Shaw is one of several authors who drive the plot of my new, James-Bond-inflected Hector Lassiter novel, DEATH IN THE FACE, featuring my fictional novelist Mr. Lassiter, 007 creator Ian Fleming, Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima and Robert Shaw.
 
Ian Fleming, actor Pedro Armendariz
and Robert Shaw in Istanbul.


Shaw finds his way into this novel because he also bleached his hair, built up his bulk, and played the chilling, would-be Bond assassin Red Grant in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.


ROBERT SHAW with LOTTA LENYA
(AKA, ROSA KLEBB)
(In the original Fleming novel, Grant was in thrall to SMERSH, the infamous Russian spy agency; in the film, Donovan “Red” Grant is an agent of SPECTRE.)

As a child, I first watched all of the original Connery 007 films with my father, usually during ABC Movie Of-The-Week special showings.

(My mother, father and I managed to see YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE in a grand old Columbus, Ohio downtown theater when the film was new. After, we went to a nearby downtown department story where I got my own vintage Corgi Aston Martin with patented ejector seat).

Shaw, Connery, and the run-up
to a classic fight scene.

I remember my father, with real relish, preparing me for the climactic and particularly vicious fight scene between Shaw and Sean Connery: a filmic hand-to-hand brawl matched only in his mind by the train fight between Lee Marvin and railroad bull Ernest Borgnine in EMPEROR OF THE NORTH.

(Oddly enough, current Bond Daniel Craig would engage in a similar, train-top melee in SKYFALL, even resorting to the use of chains, as in EON.)

The battle to the death between Grant and Bond in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is, indeed, one of cinema’s greatest and most visceral fight scenes.




Years later, and with piercing poignancy, Robert Shaw’s Sheriff of Nottingham would square off a last time against Sean Connery’s Robin Hood for another nasty— and far more bloody and bittersweet—mano-a-mano in Richard Lester’s ROBIN AND MARIAN (1976).




In addition to an epic turn as the Irish gangster mark in THE STING (1974), Shaw is probably best remembered for his portrayal of would-be shark hunter Bartholomew M. Quint in JAWS.

A last bit of trivia: They say Shaw, the accomplished novelist, proved his chops as a writer yet again by deftly editing down many pages of his Quint monologue to the now-classic “Indianapolis Speech” that centers the film’s final third. (Shaw purportedly cut the speech down from John Milius’ original ten-page version to about five pages.)


In one of his last roles, Shaw easily swamped Harrison Ford in the charisma-stakes in FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE, playing a character with the last name (a Bondian premonition?) of “Mallory.”

Shaw died of a heart attack at the rather young age of fifty-one.

Oddly enough, just like Ian Fleming, Shaw’s last good hours were spent at a golf club. (My take-away for aging authors: Eschew golf and country clubs, like the goddamn plague.)

To explore more about Robert Shaw, author, check out this very fine piece.

NEXT UP: YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, AND ITS ROLE IN DEATH IN THE FACE


DEATH IN THE FACE
NOW AVAILABLE here





Wednesday, October 21, 2015

DEATH IN THE FACE: THE STRANGE LIFE & DEATH OF YUKIO MISHIMA


Writers who become bound up in quixotic, violent causes: Sadly, you could write a book.

1823: The poet Lord Gordon George Byron becomes swept up in the Greek independence movement. He chips in cash, various other resources, and, eventually, plans to personally lead a military action. Byron falls ill, undergoes a course of “therapeutic bleeding” (from which he probably contracts sepsis) and dies in Greece in 1824.

1939-45?: Ernest Hemingway ran his own spy/anti-German submarine contingent called “The Crook Factory,” then later operated a guerilla unit while serving as a WWII correspondent in the European Theater. Hem ended up facing a formal hearing for his actions (see my Hector Lassiter novel, ROLL THE CREDITS for more on that latter).

A young Yukio Mishima.

1970: On November 24, Japanese novelist-playwright Yukio Mishima, 45, stages a coup attempt that ends in his committing seppuku (ritual disembowelment) and then beheading at the hands of one of his four conspirators.

———
DEATH IN THE FACE
NOW AVAILABLE here

Yukio Mishima (born Kimitake Hiraoka) was a gifted novelist and one of Japan’s great literary figures. He was a true renaissance man who composed nearly three dozen novels, nearly as many books of essays, more than two dozen short story collections, plays, screenplays and who dabbled in acting.


Mishima's poorly received speech delivered
minutes before his ritual suicide.

He was considered a likely contender for the Nobel Prize for literature.

Mishima was increasingly appalled by Japan’s post-war Westernization and turned further and further toward martial arts studies and an embracement of Samurai codes of life and personal conduct. He practiced body-building and kendo, and, in 1968, he formed is own private militia.


His death came almost immediately upon completion of his novel, THE DECAY OF THE ANGEL, the final volume of his SEA OF FERTILITY tetralogy that many regard as Mishima’s masterwork.

Yukio Mishima shares a lunch with my fictional novelist, Hector Lassiter, in DEATH IN THE FACE, the next-to-last novel in the Lassiter series.

Lassiter is in Japan, dogging the steps of his fellow thriller writer Ian Fleming, who has come to gather materials for his James Bond novel YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.

Over a meal and drinks, Mishima shares his horror at Japan’s post-war condition to Hector—a deep and troubling concern shared by many of the villains in my novel, including an all-too-real clandestine ultranationalist cabal called the Black Dragon Society. (The group was actually operating in 1940s America, in the San Joaquin Valley of all places, and within Japanese internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor.)

In sum, Mishima is yet another in a long-line of gifted, self-destructive creative artists who poses a cautionary, unsettling example to novelist Hector Lassiter who is now himself becoming a “lion in winter”.



DEATH IN THE FACE
NOW AVAILABLE here

NEXT TIME: Robert Shaw, actor and novelist, and his role in DEATH IN THE FACE.


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