Nostalgia City Mysteries

By Mark S. Bacon

Tag Archives: Orson Welles

Why is there a Ferris wheel on my book cover?

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By Michael Niemann

It’s admittedly an odd choice for a thriller, but let me explain.

The Wiener Riesenrad, or Viennese giant wheel, was designed and built in 1897 by British engineers to commemorate the golden anniversary of emperor Franz Josef. And it is indeed of giant proportions, 212 feet tall. However, it wasn’t the tallest in the world. The original Ferris wheel, designed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.  in 1893 for the Chicago World Columbian Exhibition, was 264 feet tall. Other illicit_trade-niemann-covergiant wheels built in London and Paris around the same time were also taller. But after a couple of decades, those other Ferris wheels had all been taken down.

By 1920, the Wiener Riesenrad was the tallest wheel in the world. It held that position until 1985 when the 289 foot Technostar wheel was opened in Japan. Currently, the tallest wheel is the High Roller in Las Vegas which stands 550 tall more than twice the height of the Riesenrad.

No Ferris wheel has played a bigger a role in popular culture than the Wiener Riesenrad. It featured in three spy thriller films, The Third Man, Scorpio, The Living Daylights, and one romance, Before Sunrise. It also made an appearance in several novels.

The wheel’s feature role in spy thrillers is not an accident. The Third Man takes place just a few years after World War II when Austria and Vienna were still divided into four sectors, occupied by Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the U.S. Obviously there was plenty of spying going on then.

The agreement that ended the occupation stipulated that Austria had to remain neutral henceforth. No wonder that during the Cold War, Vienna became a hub of clandestine meetings, shady dealings and generally a playground for spies from all over the world. That has not changed.

Inside the The Wiener Riesenrad, or Viennese giant wheel.

Inside the The Wiener Riesenrad, or Viennese giant wheel.

Austria’s neutrality also made Vienna a perfect location to host one of the United Nations headquarters. And that brings me back to my book. My protagonist, Valentin Vermeulen, works for the UN and a case of fraud brings him to Vienna. Once I had him there, I remembered The Third Man and watched the movie again. The scene featuring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton is one of the most gripping scenes in the movie. Continue Reading →

Noir notes

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Reprints from Centipede

Centipede Press of Lakewood, Colo. offers beautiful reprints of classic novels including many noir titles. Cornell Woolrich, Paul Cain and other authors are featured.   The Centipede website says,

“Crime fiction – in particular, the hard-boiled roman noir – has a special place in American literature. We offer a small but growing selection of classic crime novels from some of the most respected names in the genre, including David Goodis, Fredric Brown and Jim Thompson. All of our crime titles feature new introductions by prominent writers in the genre. And nearly every book has bonus features, such as original paperback cover art, one or two bonus short stories or essays, and other goodies.”

http://www.centipedepress.com/books.html

 

Good definition

Writing in the introduction to Night Has 1000 Eyes by Cornell Woolrich, Francis M. Nevins defines noir this way:

“…the kind of bleak, disillusioned study in the poetry of terror that flourished in American mystery fiction during the 1930s and 1940s and in American crime movies during the forties and fifties. The hallmarks of the noir style are fear, guilt and loneliness, breakdown and despair, sexual obsession and social corruption, a sense that the world is controlled by malignant forces preying on us, a rejection of happy endings and a preference for resolutions heavy with doom, but always redeemed by a breathtakingly vivid poetry of word (if the work was a novel or story) or image (if it was a movie).”

 

Cornell Woolrich video

Here’s a two and a half minute video tribute to Cornell Woolrich. The short program includes photos, covers of his books and posters from movies made from his novels. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fgQCNGtB-M

 

Dark beginning

This book site, Biblioklept, has an article on neo noir novels and a video clip of the first scene of the Orson Welles-directed film, “Touch of Evil.” This is a noir beginning to match any film in the genre. http://biblioklept.org/2010/04/13/in-brief-new-and-not-so-new-noir-novels/

 

Who are the new noir writers?

Flavorwire lists what it says are “10 essential neo-noir authors.” http://flavorwire.com/388913/10-essential-neo-noir-authors/

 

 

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