Noir Factory Podcast
Will Viharo: Gonzo Pulp Writer
Will Viharo is the author of the Vic Valentine series as well as the host of Seattle's Noir at the Bar, a seasonal showcase that combines author readings with alcohol, the way God intneded it. He is a writer that defies classification, with his work mixing humor, surrealism, gore, violence, and sex.
His newest work, Vic Valentine, International Man of Misery, is due out this fall and in this interrogation I get a chance to get the skinny from an unconventional writer, society observer, and all-around good guy.
You can connect with Will at www.thrillville.net
Cover Art provided by Matt Brown. You can find his work here.
Noir Factory Podcast
Joseph Weil: The Yellow Kid
“Who's going to believe a con artist? Everyone if she's good.”
Joseph Weil was born in Chicago in 1875 to Mr. and Mrs. Otto Weil. The couple owned a small neighborhood grocery store and made a decent income. Their boy, Joseph, helped out after school by sweeping up and stocking shelves.
And then he discovered racehorses.
Case #33: The Black Sox
I'm forever blowing ballgames,
pretty ballgames in the air.
I come from Chi, I hardly try,
just go to bat and fade and die.
Fortune's coming my way,
that's why I don't care.
I'm forever blowing ballgames,
and the gamblers treat us fair.
You could say that it started with Charlie Comiskey, because a lot of things started with Charlie Comiskey in Chicago in 1919. Comiskey owned the Chicago White Sox, a serious contender in any year, and he enjoyed the reputation as a tightwad and a fierce negotiator.
I want to go on record by saying that although Comiskey fostered the reputation as a hard-guy and a tightwad, the payroll of the Chicago White Sox was one of the best in the league. The team was filled with solid players and had two bona fide stars on its roster; outfielder Joe Jackson and third baseman Buck Weaver. They each made over $6000 a year in 1919 and a lot of the other name players on the team made around half that. And that was about what they would have made on any other roster in the Bigs, so while money was a factor in the Black Sox Scandal, it wasn't the only factor.
Alan Ladd and Box 13
“I'm the most insecure guy in Hollywood. If you had it good all your life, you figure it can't ever be bad, but when you've had it bad, you wonder how long a thing like this will last.”
Alan Walbridge Ladd was born on September 3rd, 1913 in Hot Springs, Arkansas and was the only child of Ina Raleigh and Alan Ladd. Like most of the characters Ladd went onto play, his upbringing was rough and growing up was a constant struggle.
The family lost Alan's father, a freelance accountant, to a heart attack when Alan was only four. Shortly afterwards the family apartment was lost when Alan accidentally burned it down playing with matches.
After they lost their home Alan and his mother moved to Oklahoma City where she remarried. Afterwards they went to Pasadena, in a Grapes of Wrath-like journey,where his step-father found short-time work painting movie sets. Later in life, Ladd said they existed for long periods of time on nothing but potato soup.
For a hero to fail, a lot of things has to happen. It has to be poorly thought out, ill conceived, and have little in terms of redeeming quality. Oh, and it should be created with ulterior motives.
Sounds pretty harsh? Then you just haven't met NFL SuperPro.
Everyone has a hero. For cop's it's probably the Dark Knight and for soldiers I can imagine Captain America, depending on the army your in. But what about the ordinary guys? What about the accountants and pastry chefs or the mail carriers and DMV workers?
Fishermen, okay...we'll give you Aquaman.
But for the Lyft and Uber drivers out there, today's episode is for you!
I give you Space Cabbie!
The Blue Diamond
Some heroes are with us for ages and other are gone in the blink of an eye. If you are in the business of being a hero, particularly a super one, you never know how long you'll have. You just have to make sure that you use our time wisely.
That and you should punch a lot of Nazis.
“He's clearly a man with a mission, but it's not one of vengeance. Bruce is not after personal revenge ... He's much bigger than that; he's much more noble than that. He wants the world to be a better place, where a young Bruce Wayne would not be a victim ... In a way, he's out to make himself unnecessary. Batman is a hero who wishes he didn't have to exist.”
In 1939 detectives and vigilantes rules the popular literary landscape. They were hard men who handed out justice at the end of a gun. Even the heroes that appeared in pulps, the early Super Heroes, such as the Shadow and the Spider, handed out death sentences with regularity, and whenever justice didn't come from them, it usually came in another fatal form, and no one seemed really broken up over it.
But suddenly comics and comic books were picking up steam with the public, serving as moral compasses for the kids of America, and that brand of quick justice would no longer do.
Names like Doctor Occult, the Clock, Superman, and the Crimson Avenger were on the scene, and to tell the truth, the transition from pulp sensibilities to comic books was rough. Heroes still wailed on the bad guys with little regards for health or civil rights, and even Superman was not above sending a guy to the hospital.
You know....if society needed that to happen.
In truth even Batman carried around a gun in the early days, but that went away quickly. Comics had a wider audience than the pulps, and Bob Kane and Bill Finger had a job to do.
That job wasn't to protect children. It was to sell comics to kids and approving parents.
“Behind me, Billie was on her last song. I picked up the refrain, humming a few bars. Her voice sounded different to me now. Beneath the layers of hurt, beneath the ragged laughter, I heard a willingness to endure. Endure- and make music that wasn't there before.”
The woman who would be Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan in Philadelphia on April 7th, 1915. In her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues, written with William Duffy, Billie said that her parents were “just a couple of kids” when they were married. She said that her father
was eighteen at the time, her mother was sixteen, and that she was three.
In reality her mother and father were never married, never lived under the same roof, and her mother nineteen when she met Billie’s father, who was himself only seventeen.
Lady Sings the Blues is littered with inaccuracies and misquotes. The book was written quickly, from conversations between the two writers, Billie telling William Duffy stories of her life. He was interested in getting her story, what she felt, and was less interested in fact checking.
And in this case, that’s fine. We may slip over a lyric or two, but the melody of the song, the voice, IS clear and true, and it really tells us everything we need to know about Billie Holiday, the immortal Lady Day.
"He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That's one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn't far wrong."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
George Remus was born on November 13th 1876 in Germany to Frank and Maria Remus, a working class family. He was the middle child with an older sister and younger brother and while he was still just a toddler, the family immigrated to the US.
The Remus family landed in Baltimore, then Cincinnati, and finally to Chicago, along with an intense wave of German immigrants to the Midwest.
Frank Remus found work as a lumber scorer during a boom time in Chicago and his son George flourished in school. Picking up the language quickly, he was fluent in both German and English at an early age and carried with him only the slightest German accent.
When George was only fourteen his father, Frank, who had suffered from acute rheumatism, was left disabled by the disease and unable to work. That left George to take up the mantle as breadwinner of the family. With fierce determination, he told his father not to worry and dedicated himself not only to supporting his family but to rise up through society as well.
He went to work at his uncle's pharmacy as a clerk and at the age of nineteen passed the state exam for a pharmacist's license. He continued to save and invest and within two years of becoming a pharmacist he purchased his uncle's shop and a few years after that opened a second, all the while dabbling in health insurance the side.
As a young adult Remus grew to be a fastidious man who was meticulous about his clothes and his surroundings. He prided himself as being a connoisseur of good food, fine wine, art, and literature. He also considered himself a “man's man,” and even though he grew into a soft, pudgy adult, he could still count on his iron will to achieve any goal he set for himself.
He was quick with his fists and even though he wasn't the most athletic man he could wear down almost any opponent. He also took up swimming with the same amount of focus and determination that he did everything.
He became a member of the Illinois Athletic Club and joined their water polo team, participating in national events. In 1907 he set the record for endurance swimming in Lake Michigan by swimming for 5 hours and 40 minutes in the dead of winter.
It was a record that held up for decades.
In 1899 he fell in love with one of his customers, Lillian Klauff, and in July of that year, the two were married. The following year, George Remus's daughter, Remola, was born.
When Remola was only eight years old she was cast by L. Frank Baum himself to play Dorothy Gale in the first film adaption of The Wizard of Oz.
Before George Remus was thirty years old he had met every goal society, or more importantly, he himself had ever set. But the arena, that of a pharmacist and a business owner, wasn't the one he had chosen. He had been thrust into it.
Now it was time for George Remus to face bigger challenges.
Eddie Muller is the founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation. According to their website, the Film Noir Foundation is a non-profit public benefit corporation created as an educational resource regarding the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of film noir as an original American cinematic movement.
Eddie is also the host of Noir City, the coolest non-profit fundraiser known to man. Noir City is a traveling film festival and chief fundraising event for the Film Noir Foundation. The event is a fun, immersive festival that makes its home in San Francisco’s Castro Theater but makes its way around the country.
In addition to Noir CIty, Eddie is also the host of Noir Alley on Turner Classic Movies. Noir Alley runs every Sunday at 10:00AM and showcases the best in noir.
Outside of film and television, Eddie is the senior editor of Noir City, FNF’s monthly e-magazine, as well as a contributing writer to Oakland Noir, a collection of Bay Area noir stories, as well as his studies of films and his work in fiction, which earned him the Best First Novel of 2002 by the Private Eye Writers of America.
Eddie Muller has forgotten more than most of us will ever know about Noir film and has earned the nickname the “Czar of Noir.”
“Even if they never got anything for it, it was cheap at that price. Without malice aforethought I had given them the best show that was ever staged in their territory since the landing of the Pilgrims! It was easily worth fifteen million bucks to watch me put the thing over."
Carlo Pietro Giovanni Guglielmo Tobaldo Ponzi was born in Lugo, Italy in 1882 and did the world a favor, one of very few, by changing his name to Charles Ponzi.
He came from a family that was at one time well-to-do but, by the time of Charles’ birth, had fallen onto hard times. His mother used the title “Dona” before her name, an honorific usually reserved for the upper-tier of Italian society, but the title was a holdover from days long gone.
The Ponzi family had, by all reports, fallen onto hard times.
Charles Ponzi himself was a charming and likeable fellow who was an less-than-average student who was interested in good times a little more than schoolwork. After he graduated primary school he took a job as a postal worker, but left it when he was accepted at the University of Rome La Sapienza.
While he “studied” there, and because this is a podcast I’ll tell you I just used “air quotes,” he fell in with the children of wealth and leisure.
They treated their time at the university like a four-year holiday and Charles was more than happy to do the same. He hung out with the “beautiful people” in bars,cafes, and concerts, and he considered himself to be every bit as privileged as they were.
He ended his career at the university, however, flat broke with very little to show for it.
The one thing he did learn from his time at school was that young men were traveling to the US and returning wealthy.
Noir Factory Podcast
In 1996 a board game called KILL DR. LUCKY came out. It was a wildly fun game where each person takes turns trying to, well...kill Dr. Lucky.
Don't judge me. It was a simpler time.
The game required each player to take a turn at doing in the Rasputin-like physician, which was sooo much more difficult than it sounded. It took luck and daring to get the good doctor away from all other players and do him in, and more often than not, he escaped no worse for wear.
In short he was one hard SOB to kill. I'll go ahead and put a link in the show notes so you can see what I mean.
What does that have to do with today's case?
Well, a lot of what we do here is based in hard, cold fact and today's case is a little incredible. In fact, you'd be forgiven for thinking that today's file is a little something we overheard at the corner bar.
Everything here, like all of our cases, has been researched and verified to the best of our ability. So sit back and have a pint as you listen to tonight's tale. Hell, have two if you aren't driving.
Case #27: “Durable” Mike Malloy. Today on the Noir Factory.
Join the discussion over at Facebook.com/TheNoirFactory
Case#01.5: Kate Warne-America's First Female Detective REVISITED
Steve Gomez here.
A lot has happened behind the scenes at the Noir Factory during the last month or so. Our offices in the Sierra Foothills have moved lock, stock, and barrel up to the Pacific Northwest. Way up to the icy clutches of the Pacific Northwest. Past Seattle and into kissing cousin territory with Canada.
That kind of Pacific Northwest.
Now those were the offices we know and love. My home. Our everyday offices. Not to worry about the International Office in Prague. Those are still doing well. In fact, I’m told the less said about them, the better.
I’m actually told not to say anything about them. It’s best for everyone if we never speak of them again.
Please forget you ever heard about any office in Prague. There are no offices in Prague.
In addition to the big move up north, there have been other big life changes. I’ve taken a new day job that is more podcast friendly and should help with the production of more Noir Factory episodes as well as Noir Factory items which will turn up over time.
During all those changes our goal here was to keep our production schedule of two episodes a month up and uninterrupted.
I fell short of that goal. Woefully short.
I missed the entire month of February. I spent what few free hours I had that month doing research on a new case, but those hours were very few and very far between.
So in order to catch up and still bring something worthwhile to the table, I wanted to present something new or at least something beneficial to this “thing of ours.”
So this week, like any good detective, we are going back to our first case.
Case #001- Kate Warne: America’s First Female Detective is our most popular episode. It is also the episode with the worst sound quality. I was a complete rookie when I recorded it, and it shows.
And Kate Warne deserves better.
So as a special offering this week, as well as closing the file on old business, we’re going to revisit and re-record our first episode and in that sense, we’re going to try and give fellow Detective Kate Warne her due.
So be sure to grab your fedora and if you enjoy this episode, share it with a friend and stop by iTunes and give us a review, because a kind word can take you far.
Not as far as a few kind words and a gun, but still…...
Noir Factory Interrogation #1
Dan Slater’s novel Wolf Boys had been banned from prison by the Texas State Department of Corrections.
That is a shame because there is much there for the inmates, as well the public, to learn.
Dan Slater is a former legal reporter for The Wall Street Journal and has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, GQ, and Fast Company. He is also the author of Love in the Time of Algorithms.
Today he joins author Steven Gomez to discuss his newest book, Wolf Boys-Two American Teenages and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel.
Noir Factory Podcast
Case #026: Victor Lustig-Con Man Extraordinaire
“I’ve always loved movies about con men. I think con men are as American as apple pie.”
-Bill Paxton, actor
Victor Lustig was born on January 4th, 1890. Maybe. He said, more than once, that he came from the Austria-Hungarian town of Hostinné, in what is now the Czech Republic. He said once that he was the son of the town’s burgomaster. He also said that he was the son of the poorest couple in the village. Believe what you like about the childhood of Victor Lustig, just know that there’s not a lot of upside in taking the word of a con man.
As a boy, Victor Lustig was an excellent student. Not of books and notes, not of procedure and equations. He was a student of people. He picked up languages quickly and he saw patterns in people’s behaviors where others didn’t.
He studied at the University of Paris and became fluent in Czech, French, English, German, and Italian. While he never was an imposing person, he learned charm and poise, and he learned to make them work for him.
“Whether in a white dinner jacket or in a trench coat and a snap-brim fedora, he became a new and timely symbol of the post-Pearl Harbor American: tough but compassionate, skeptical yet idealistic, betrayed yet ready to believe again, and above all, a potentially deadly opponent.”
-Ann M. Sperber, author
A lot of what we do here at the Noir Factory revolves around noir films, crime history, and pulp stories. And like it or not, whenever the subject of noir comes up, it has only one face. And that face has a scar on its upper lip, sleepy eyes, a fedora worn at a roguish angle, and a cigarette dangling from its lips.
And most of us wouldn't have it any other way.
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was a Christmas baby, born on December 25th, 1899 in New York City. And while that sounds like a typical "tough-guy" bio, it was anything but.
Bogart was the son of a prominent New York surgeon with the unfortunate name "Belmont Bogart," and successful commercial illustrator Elizabeth Bogart. Humphrey Bogart was raised in the Upper West Side, in a fairly privileged home, and before we go any further into Humphrey Bogart's childhood, we have to address the elephant in the room regarding his childhood.
Namely “Was Humphrey Bogart the Gerber baby food?”
We were all beautiful babies because every baby is beautiful. But again, none of us were beautiful babies like Humphrey Bogart was a beautiful baby.
“...My husband pointed out that kids frequently have an instinctive desire to follow the good example rather than the bad, once they find out which is which. We agreed that a good moral background and thorough grounding in the Hardy Boys would always tell in the long run.”
-Shirley Jackson, author
They are still in print today and they are still popular, even though they aren’t really like the stories you remember. Today there are smart phones and text clues, hackers and virtual reality, but don’t let that bother you.
They really weren’t for you in the first place.
They were for the person that you used to be. They were for the ten year old that you were. The one who stayed up late and smuggled a flashlight under the covers because you had to know what The Secret of the Old Clock really was or because you had to learn the true meaning behind the Mystery of the Whale Tattoo.
And if you are unhappy with the changes in the text or because Frank and Joe don’t look the way you remember them as kids, then that’s not on them. After all these years, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew are still just kids. If you can’t stand that modern sensibilities are creeping into your precious stories, then that’s on you.
But before you pass final judgment on some of your best childhood memories, then again let me remind you that they probably weren’t cutting edge entertainment when you read them. Adults probably looked down on them and thought of the stories as simple or cartoonish, or even, God forbid, juvenile.
But then what the hell did the adults know anyway?
NOIR FACTORY PODCAST
CASE #22-The Inspiration Behind Sherlock Holmes
NOIR FACTORY PODCAST
CASE #21: The Shadow- Pulp Hero
-Alan Moore, writer
The Shadow first cast his presence over the airwaves on July 31st of 1930. It was on CBS's The Detective Story Magazine Hour where a mysterious narrator introduced a dramatic story that appeared in the latest issue of Street and Smith’s Detective Story Magazine. Back then the Shadow was merely a story-telling device, a mysterious identity to bookend a detective story.
"I...am The Shadow! Conscience is a taskmaster no crook can escape. It is a jeering shadow even in the blackest lives. The Shadow knows... and you too shall know if you listen as Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine relates for you …”
Yada yada yada…
The intro was followed by a hard-boiled detective story, and each episode ended with the now-famous maniacal laughter. The stories were pedestrian but the narrator struck a chord with the audience. His mysterious voice and background music made a promise to the listener. That promise was of adventure, intrigue, and action. Sometimes that promise was a little hard to hold up, and the show was canceled after only 52 episodes.
That mysterious narrator, however, lived on to narrate the Blue Coal Radio Revue and Love Story Hour. The mysterious narrator eventually went on to have his own show, The Shadow, but he continued to serve as a narrator and book-ended the stories.
The first person to fill the Shadow’s wide-brimmed fedora was voice actor James La Curto, but he was almost immediately replaced by another voice actor, Frank Readick Jr. and much to the surprise of Street and Smith, the radio show’s producers and the magazine publishers, the character of the Shadow soon became more popular than the hard-boiled stories he narrated.
"My agent told me that he was going to make me the Janet Gaynor of England-I was going to play all the sweet roles. Whereupon, at the tender age of thirteen, I set upon the path of playing nothing but hookers.”
There are certain family names in Hollywood make you sit up and take notice. Today those names are the Fonda and the Bridges, Coppola and Sheen. It wasn't any different in the early days of Tinseltown. The names were different, but royalty was still royalty. Back then if you were a Barrymore than it caught people's attention, and if you were a Huston, then folks wanted to see what you had.
For Ida Lupino, the family tree she grew out of was just as solid and sturdy as any in Hollywood, but the roots went deeper than most. She wasn't a Coppola or a Barrymore. She was a Lupino.
And that name had a weight all of its own.
NOIR FACTORY PODCAST
CASE #19: The Kray Twins
“They were the best years of our lives. They called them the swinging sixties. The Beatles were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world...and me and my brother ruled London. We were fucking untouchable.”
-Ronnie Kray, from his autobiography
The East End of London during the sixties was a mixture of poor and artistic, of modern and bohemian, of classic and diversity that England had never seen before or since. It was like Bauhaus before Hitler. It was like Harlem in the 20's. It was like.... well, it wasn't like anything ever, and that's what made it special.
Clubs and art galleries sprang up amid the squalor that was the East End, and with them came the rich and the beautiful. It was said, rather famously, that “London's West End has all the money and leisure and that the East End monopolizes most of the labor and nearly all of the dirt.”
In the 60's it was time for the dirt in the East End to shine.
The wealthy and the influential came to the East End to rub shoulders with the infamous, the dangerous, and the notorious. There was no neighborhood in all of England that encapsulated the 60's like the East End, and all through it lurked a dark and dangerous thread that lead to a pair of twin brothers looking to make London their own.
NOIR FACTORY PODCAST
CASE #18: The Cotton Club-Nightclub
“It was infamously racially exclusive. W.C. Handy wished to go one evening to the Cotton Club and he was turned away. And he could hear his music being performed!"
-Levering Lewis, historian
It was the greatest nightclub of its day and there's a convincing argument to be made that it was the greatest nightclub that ever was. Opening its doors during the Harlem Renaissance, The Cotton Club was part Speakeasy, part dance-hall, part supper club, and all entertainment. Owned by Chicago gangster Owney Madden, the Cotton Club featured expensive food, cold beer, even during prohibition, and the greatest lineup of black entertainers in America of its time, and perhaps of any time.
And all of it was available for a small cover charge.
But only if you were white.
We can talk about the spectacle and grandeur that was the Cotton Club literally for hours. It was the greatest showplace of its day. If a song or a band was a hit there, it was a hit in America. If a dancer killed on stage, then they made a career for themselves. It was THE venue of its day, and one of the few available to black entertainers, but it was also a huge symbol of segregation.
NOIR FACTORY PODCAST CASE #17: Raymond Chandler-Writer
“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.
“He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.
“The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”
-Raymond Chandler, Writer
Raymond Chandler didn’t invent hard-boiled fiction. Chandler, like Dashiell Hammett, saw a new narrative forming in popular literature and they felt comfortable working in it. It was a style of detectives and dames and it rang a bell with the American public.
The school of hard-boiled literature would still exist without men like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, but we would probably have to call it something else. They put the word “literature” to the form, and without them, they would only be stories of “detectives and dames.” They would be sensational and fun, but very little more.
Raymond Chandler wrote with elegance and grace. His dialogue was quick and intellectual and his characters were multifaceted. To call him one of the greatest pulp writers of the twentieth century is accurate but demeaning. Quite simply, he was one of the best writers of the twentieth century, period.