Monday, June 9, 2008

Dog Ears #15: The Screaming Mimi

Summertime is time for "beach reading", so I picked a book from my list that I hoped had no redeeming qualities other than sheer entertainment. Fredric Brown's 1949 pulp The Screaming Mimi hit the nail luridly on the head.

Not to be confused with the NYC vintage store"Screaming Mimi's"

Fellow Cincinnatian Brown's book has been adapted for film at least twice, first in 1958's SCREAMING MIMI (starring legendary looker Anita Ekberg as the stripper Yolanda) and then as the uncredited inspiration for Dario Argento's 1970 shocker THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. Particularly for a book almost 60 years old, Mimi's world of smart-ass narrators, hard-drinking beat reporters, sleazy underworld figures and psycho killers feels gritty and authentic (even during its many flights of fancy).

The writing is hard-boiled and often hilarious, and if I were still angling to produce movies I would go off to a motel in the desert, pound out another adaptation of this sucker and get it to Brad and Angelina ASAP. They would be perfect as binging Bill Sweeney and his curvy obsession Yolanda (which reminds me, the tagline for the 1958 MIMI was "Suspense around every curve!", which is pretty damn good methinks).

Starring Anita "La Dolce Vita" Ekberg (aka Anita "Va-va-voom" Ekberg)

If you decide to do that, please thank me in the credits.

p1 (the first lines of the book)
"You can never tell what a drunken Irishman will do. You can make a flying guess; you can make a lot of flying guesses."

"There's murder before the story proper starts, and murder after it ends; the actual story begins with a naked woman and ends with one, which is a good opening and a good ending, but everything between isn't nice. Don't say I didn't warn you."

p6 crease |krēs| verb [ trans. ]
2 (of a bullet) graze (someone or something), causing little damage : a bullet creased his thigh.

p10 "It's the easiest thing in the world, Sweeney. Take rich men. Easiest thing in the world; anybody can get rich. All you got to do is want money so bad it means more to you than anything else. Concentrate on money and you'll get it. If you want other things worse, you don't."

p20 "There are strange things in the world and then there are stranger ones."

There are strange films in the world, and then there are Dario Argento films.

p22 "Sweeney headed for the Blade. There's a nice pun in that, if you don't mind your puns obvious. The Blade. If you saw that pun yourself, forgive me for pointing it out. You got it, yes, but somebody else would have missed it. It takes all kinds of people to read a book."

p30 "'Well,' said Sweeney, and thought it over. He had to get some nourishment into him somehow, a little at a time, until his appetite came back and he could look at a full meal without flinching. 'Beer with an egg in it, I guess.'"

nictitating membrane |ˈniktiˌtāti ng |
noun Zoology
a whitish or translucent membrane that forms an inner eyelid in birds, reptiles, and some mammals. It can be drawn across the eye to protect it from dust and keep it moist. Also called third eyelid .

p32 "Isn't civilization a marvelous thing, Mr. Sweeney? That two men can sit around like this and insult one another, amicably but sincerely, and enjoy the conversation?"

p111 "He... knocked on a heavy door. It opened a few inches and a face looked out, the eyes–and they weren't nice eyes–well above the level of Sweeney's head. Under the eyes was a broken nose, and under the nose was a pair of thick lips that said "Yeah?" and showed broken teeth between them."

complaisant |kəmˈplāsənt|
willing to please others; obliging; agreeable : when unharnessed, Northern dogs are peaceful and complaisant.

p118 "Unconsciously, one judges others by comparison with oneself; and two people both of whom have eaten onions cannot smell each other's breath."

151 goldbrick informal
a thing that looks valuable, but is in fact worthless.
• (also goldbrick or goldbricker) a con man.
• a lazy person : [as adj. ] hardworking Amos and goldbrick Andy.
verb (usu. goldbrick) [ intrans. ]
invent excuses to avoid a task; shirk : he wasn't goldbricking; he was really sick.
• [ trans. ] swindle (someone).

156 "He strolled over to Clark Street, stopped in at Ireland's and ordered a lobster."
- i don't know what it is about that sentence, but there's something magical and transporting about it for me...

Finally, a bonus Dog Ear that I found at Brown's IMDB page. Brown is credited with writing the shortest horror story of all time:

"The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door."


dwr said...

Summer and Pulp! Love it. Have you read any Ed McBain? Check out THE GUTTER AND THE GRAVE.

Mr. Word Player said...

I see Wolfcastle as McBain.

born Salvatore Albert Lombino, then became Ed McBain, then became Evan Hunter. wrote the screenplay for THE BIRDS!

I actually saw his name yesterday when I was picking up a few titles from Hard Case Crime ( will def. check out GUTTER next time.