5 min read

April: Mud Season

The novel Road Dogs, the movie Mr. Lucky, the new Royel Otis album, & guitarist Roy Buchanan
April: Mud Season
Photo by Artur Łuczka



April was a blur and I'm late getting this out. In these reviews I cover works that directly influence what I am working on: one more A. A. Aritz comedy crime book in the pipeline before I switch back to a Dan Domench play. But of course, plans made by men and all that. Always sending love & light.

BOOK: Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard was 83 when he wrote ROAD DOGS. It was published in 2009 when he was 84. Why am I reviewing a book published in 2009? Because this month I read four other contemporary crime suspense novels and I was so disgusted by the stupid violence, TV plotting, and inane dialogue that I had to go back to Leonard to clear my head.

You don't have to be a writer to enjoy reading this novel, but if you are a writer and you're paying attention (and you are not a person stricken with envy), you'll be appropriately humbled. Leonard entertains first, creates plot urgency, and then strings you along with gorgeous interior and exterior dialogue.

Most importantly, this book is about something. We all have circles of friends, our own Road Dogs who we run with. Who are we when we are with them? That's the question and don't be scared--as we used to say on South San Joaquin Street--it's just a movie and just a role you're playing.

MOVIE: Mr. Lucky directed by H.C. Potter starring Cary Grant and Laraine Day

This 1943 movie was based on the short story Bundles for Freedom by Milton Holmes published in 1942 in Cosmopolitan. Holmes also worked on this screenplay with the writer Adrian Scott, who was later a victim of the Hollywood Blacklist.

I'm highlighting a film made in 1943 for the same reason I chose the novel Road Dogs this month. When I complained about the level of violence and dumb plotting in the movies I watched recently, the screenwriter and at-large critic Mark David Rosenthal ordered me to watch Mr. Lucky.

It is now one of my top ten favorite movies.

Cary Grant's acting in this movie is magnificent. He walks the thin line between comedy and drama without ever getting caught. Laraine Day is sensual, funny, and as strong as any of the so-called modern movie heroines.

This film is fun, romantic, suspenseful, and surprisingly relevant today because like Road Dogs it is about something. As World War II began, many men believed they could ignore what was happening. They wanted to lie low and not participate in any way. Ignore it and it'll pass. Some politicians supported these sentiments and exploited them for jokes. Some ill men and racists became Nazi sympathizers. Many believed fascism was something limited to Germany and other unlucky countries. It would not affect the rest of civilization.

It is no accident that having this background at the heart of this film makes the romance and suspense work in heightened ways. Find this film, this Mr. Lucky, not any of the remakes or TV spinoffs, and watch it with friends. This is the real deal.

MUSIC: Studio Album: Pratts and Pain by Royel Otis

By way of Tim Cordova, and by way of Matt Cordova's TikTok (which this site will not allow me to post), I found out that Royel Otis has a new studio album, Pratts and Pain, released in February 2024.

I love the sound of this band. I am a Shins and Arctic Monkeys fan so perhaps I am not someone you can trust here. I especially like the way lead vocalist Otis Pavlovic uses R-and-B-influenced phrasings and shifts in tone. The music songwriting is excellent and the lyrics improving. Guitarist/bassist Royel Maddell shines when he lifts the tempo up into a breezy guitar pop roll. There were garage bands in the Bay Area post-punk and in Boston who sounded almost this good. Or could my memory be faulty?

MUSIC: The self-taught guitar master Roy Buchanan

Roy Buchanan, the story goes, was shocked when he saw Jimi Hendrix using a foot pedal to get the same guitar distortions that Buchanan thought he had invented using his fingers on the volume and drive controls on his Telecaster. But he never used pedals. He just kept on inventing new ways to play his electric guitar.

Buchanan grew up in poverty in Pixley, California, on a small farm between Visalia and Bakersfield. In plain words, he was a Tulare County guy from the valley. Largely if not completely self-taught, the way he learned and how he learned it made him a unique player.

He had no financial advantages, but he had the fire to play music. He created tones on his Telecaster that others are still trying to re-create today.

He was never a worldwide star, but he had a significant career as a guitar gunfighter, i.e. a hired sideman, and as a solo artist. He had two gold albums early in his career.

It had to be one of those early albums that a good friend put on a turntable a long time ago in a little house in Berkeley. It stunned me. I had never heard of Buchanan, but he made his guitar sing. I loved that album and made him play it every time I visited.

He is now considered a highly influential guitar player. Guitar Player magazine praised him as having one of the "50 Greatest Tones of All Time." He appeared on Austin City Limits in 1977.

Someone said, and no one is sure who said it, that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture." So I will leave it to you to take a few minutes of your time and experience the sound of Roy Buchanan.

He died in a jail cell after a drunken incident supposedly by suicide, but that is debated. All I know is that blues and the bottle can kill an artist. Rest In Glory.

BOOK: Red Hands by Colin Sargent

I interviewed Sargent in a previous review.

The button below takes you to Amazon and Kindle where you now buy this amazing book for $1.99 for your Kindle.

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