RARA-AVIS: RE:hardboiled sports - racing and dogfights & Red Harvest

From: Dick Lochte ( dlock@ix.netcom.com)
Date: 08 Apr 2000

 I've been away from a computer for a few days and missed the discussion of hardboiled sports. With all the talk about horseracing, I was surprised that nobody mentioned the Dick Francis novels. Some of them, especially the early titles like "Dead Cert" and "Odds Against" are very strong and very violent. "Whip Hand" has as its hero a hardboiled private eye whose hand was crushed in a racing accident. Nearly all of them have dark and sometimes depressed heroes.

Jockeys are very tough guys. Have to be, considering their size and the size of the horse. I discovered how tough they were working with Bill Shoemaker on his mystery books (which are not exactly cozies, by the way). We were in the middle of the first, "Stalking Horse," when his vehicle flipped and he broke his neck. Paralyzed from the neck down, he not only finished the contracted three books, but continued to work as a trainer at the track. Still was out there as of a year ago.

As for dogfight mysteries, which someone asked about, I don't know of any other than my first, "Sleeping Dog," which I suppose is as hardboiled as a book can be with a teenage girl as co-narrator.

The information about the scripts for "Red Harvest" is fascinating. Many years ago, I had dinner with Marilyn Golden when she and Bertolucci had just finished a draft (which one, I don't recall). She said that they had changed the warring gangs into Pinkerton strikebreakers versus the miners and their union. She felt Hammett would have applauded this attempt to make the story more realistic. I remember thinking at the time that if Hammett had wanted the story to be that blatantly political, he probably would have written it that way. But then again, who knows?

By the way, weren't "Yojimbo" and, consequently, "Fistful of Dollars," uncredited versions of "Red Harvest"? Not to mention the Walt Hill/Bruce Willis "Last Man Standing"?

Dick Lochte

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