RARA-AVIS: Re: Fade to Blonde

From: hardcasecrime ( editor@hardcasecrime.com)
Date: 19 May 2005

Jeff wrote:

> There was one reference that puzzled me,
> though. References to movies are a great
> way to bring back a time period and I
> definitely appreciated the references to
> the Hitchcock movies, but then, near the
> end, he uses ficiticious movie titles--
> Friendship Ranch and Carter and Sharp on
> the High Seas. The later being a
> reference to a comedy duo in a novel by
> Elizabeth McCraken and a specific movie
> mentioned in that book. Sounds like an
> inside joke between novelists.
> Charles, can you give us any insight on
> these movie titles?

Yes: Max and Elizabeth are friends, so the reference to Carter and Sharp is an inside joke. (You are the first person I know to have spotted it.) I don't recall any significance to "Friendship Ranch," though there might have been some.

Another inside joke is the reference to a ficitious movie called "A Sound of Distant Drums": "I make you now. William R. Metz. Production design at Paramount. You were really up there for a while...Catherine the Great's palace in 'Scarlet Monarch.' That big, ah, that kind of desert fortress in 'A Sound of Distant Drums.' Lemme think."

Back in the PBO era, a number of writers, including Donald Westlake and Lawrence Block, made an in-joke out of including references to "A Sound of Distant Drums" in their books -- for instance, in 361 Westlake writes "A little after midnight, we went down to 42nd Street and saw an important movie that had been made from a Broadway play called 'A Sound of Distant Drums.' It was about homosexuality and what a burden it was" and in GRIFTER'S GAME Block writes "The movie was lousy, a historical epic called 'A Sound of Distant Drums,' a technicolor cinemascope package with pretty girls and flashing swords and people getting themselves killed flamboyantly. I dozed through most of it." So when the time came for us to write our books for the line, we carried on the tradition. (In LITTLE GIRL LOST, when John Blake goes out to Flushing, Queens, he comments, "A video store was promoting the latest Chow Yun-Fat import, a film whose two-character Chinese title was translated as 'A Sound of Distant Drums.' ")

Here's a challenge for the experts on the list: What other authors were participants in the great "Distant Drums" conspiracy? (Our special guest this month once wrote a book called DIE TO A DISTANT DRUM, but that's different enough that it may just be a coincidence...)


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