Essential reading for fans of the epochal (and reportedly soon to be remade) movie as well as movie-history and Western...


Muscular study of Sam Peckinpah’s groundbreaking 1969 film, “the last Western.”

Texas journalist, historian, and poet Stratton (Floyd Patterson: The Fighting Life of Boxing’s Invisible Champion, 2012, etc.) charts the evolution of Peckinpah’s classic and perhaps best-known movie at the half-century mark. Peckinpah had had glimmerings of the story years before making it, with a script and cast that grew and changed considerably owing to several influences, not least of them the violent time in which it was finally made. Stratton pulls together big strands of story: the history of the Mexican revolutionary period, Peckinpah’s own fascination with Mexico, the history of U.S.–Mexico relations, the history of moviemaking itself. On the latter, the author draws a straight line from John Ford’s 1939 film, Stagecoach, to The Wild Bunch 30 years later, both for its less-than-virtuous heroes and its paving the way for “a stampede of Western movies with increasingly sophisticated characters and plotlines.” Peckinpah wrote the movie with Lee Marvin in mind as the central figure, Pike Bishop, but Marvin’s agent wasn’t enthusiastic; in any event, Paramount lured Marvin with an unheard-of $1 million fee for another Western, the painfully terrible Paint Your Wagon. Peckinpah and his producer, Stratton reveals through some careful filmic detective work, considered Robert Mitchum, Sterling Hayden, and Charlton Heston before landing on William Holden, “a first-rate actor but also a deeply troubled man, a real-life killer himself.” Holden wasn’t the easiest actor to work with, but with Robert Ryan, who had “a deeply lined face that seemed to be cut from boot leather,” he anchored what Stratton doesn’t hesitate to brand “a love affair between two men”—a “bromance," that is, one that broadened to include such players as Ernest Borgnine, L.Q. Jones, Strother Martin, Jaime Sánchez, and Ben Johnson. And a blood-soaked, protest-inducing bromance at that….

Essential reading for fans of the epochal (and reportedly soon to be remade) movie as well as movie-history and Western buffs generally.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63286-212-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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