CYBER MONDAY? LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK!

Cyber Monday is December 2nd and in the spirit of such blatant internet promotion allow me to join the passing parade of shameless self-indulgence with the inclusion of Lee Marvin Point Blank. Yeah, I know the book came out more than six years ago, but it is still very much in print, in demand, and worthy of discovery by those who have yet to purchase it. Why is that you ask? Well, for one thing, as my publisher pointed out, it’s a perennial, not bound by fads or current events that fade in short order. For another, it’s available in several formats, each with its own appeal.

Released January, 2013, the above image is from the hardcover edition of LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK, still very much available.

 

First up is the hardcover. It remains the first definitive account of the life, work and legacy of one of the most important actors of the second half of the twentieth century. I spent nearly 20 years researching it and the result is 100 exclusive interviews of friends, family and co-workers, many rare never-before-seen photos, letters recounting his harrowing time in WWII and much, much more.  Within a year, the book was also anointed with several awards, such as winning the Bronze in Biography from the Independent Publisher Book Awards (“Ippy”) and being a finalist in Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards. Not bad for a first-time author, right?

 

 

 

Not long after the release of the hardcover, the Kindle became available via Amazon and the result was quite surprising. An enterprising publicist at the distributor, IPG (Independent Publishing Group), hustled the hell out of the e-book which ultimately made the top five on the coveted  New York Times Bestseller List, as well as the Wall Street Journal and Publisher’s Weekly.

One of the Kindle’s opening images, which was a NY Times best seller.

The following year, my publisher, Tim Schaffner of Schaffner Press, decided to up the ante with the publication of the paperback. He requested that I add some new material to the project….

Paperback cover with sunburst declaration of added material, as well as the medallion sticker awarding the Bronze in Biography.

Table of Contents listing the added data compiled by yours truly for the paperback version.

I was of course pleasantly surprised not only by how well it turned out but also by the addition of several pages consisting of positive feedback from prominent individuals, such as fellow biographers Marshall Terrill (STEVE MCQUEEN: PORTRAIT OF A REBEL), Bill Krohn (HITCHCOCK AT WORK), Stefan Kanfer ( BOGART: TOUGH WITHOUT A GUN), Frank Thompson (NOTHING SACRED: THE CINEMA OF WILLIAM WELLMAN) and others.  Who could ask for more? Talk about an embarrassment of riches.
So, there you have it. My pitch to put LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK on your Cyber Monday holiday shopping list. I realize that regular readers of this blog, (if there are any) may have read this all before but since the key to good promotion is “Tell them what you know, tell them again and then tell them what you told them,” I leave it to one and all to make up their own minds….so what are you waiting for? Do you part for Cyber Monday and get your copy now.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
– Dwayne Epstein

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD….THERE WAS ALSO LEE MARVIN

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the latest opus from favorite contemporary filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino, was anxiously awaited by yours truly like a kid awaits the end of the school year and the start of summer vacation. Seriously. Everything I had read and seen about it had me practically drooling in anticipation. Then I watched it.

(L-R) Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth and Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton leaning against the facade of Hollywood’s famed Egyptian Theater.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad picture, at all. It’s just that I guess my anticipation of it, had me expecting  more.
There’s also much to recommend. My family and I moved to California from New York in 1968 so I’m familiar with what the southern California scene of 1969 was like in those days. Tarantino’s re-creation of that time and place is something to marvel at throughout the film. Whether it’s the bus benches advertising Hobo Kelly, or the brief TV moment showing late night L.A. horror host Seymour, it brought back nostalgic childhood memories for yours truly.
Most of the performances in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood are also uniformly excellent. A true standout is Brad Pitt as the laconic stunt double and gopher to Leonardo DiCaprio’s fading TV star.
I say ‘most’ performances as some of them are downright strange. The film is peppered with cameos of real-life individuals and some are just strange. An actor playing Bruce Lee challenges Pitt to a fight in one of my favorite scenes and one of the most controversial in its portrayal of the legendary martial artist.
In another sequence, British Actor Damian Lewis makes a brief appearance as Steve McQueen at a party at the Playboy Mansion in a performance that can best be described as bizarre. While there is a resemblance, in speaking with McQueen biographer Marshall Terrill, we both agreed that the speech pattern Lewis invokes is just plain weird. He may have been trying to mask his British accent but the result is nothing like McQueen. Bizarre.
So, what is it about the film that received a six minute standing ovation when it premiered at the Cannes Film festival that I have a problem saying that it’s truly great? Simply put, the main character played by DiCaprio is just not worthy of much sympathy and being the central focus of the film, it’s the key factor keeping me from loving the film. Hate to say it but it’s true.
I won’t give away any more as I hate when writers do that sort of thing. Suffice to say, I’ll probably see it on DVD, if only to see again my Lee Marvin Point Blank interview subject, Clu Gulager as an aging Westwood bookstore owner. Until then, I wonder why such a big Lee Marvin fan as Tarantino left Lee Marvin out of the film when he was big box office in 1969. How big?  Check out Lee Marvin Point Blank to find that out. In the mean time….
-Dwayne Epstein

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THE “OTHER” LEE MARVIN BIOGRAPHIES

Ahh, Lee Marvin biographies. As for mine, the story of how I came to write Lee Marvin Point Blank began in the mid-nineties when I introduced myself to Steve McQueen biographer, Marshall Terrill. I had read his book, liked it, found a few minor errors in it and asked to meet him about it. Maybe my corrections would make its way into a revised text, or so I thought. Better than that, perhaps my name would get in the acknowelegements.
I was working as a waiter at the time, having all but given up pursuing my previous career as a staff writer on a local newspaper. When I did indeed meet with Marshall, a conversation began that went from our dual appreciation of Steve McQueen, to discussing the possibility of my writing a bio myself on a favorite film actor. Going through a list of candidates, we landed on Lee Marvin mainly because there had not been a suitable bio written of him and Marshall convinced me the time was ripe. Well, merely two decades later (!), I found an agent and a publisher who agreed.
Up until then, this is what existed on Marvin and what I think of them…..

Published in 1967 by Pyramid Books.

Published in 1967 by Pyramid Books.

• First up is this compilation, sleazily titled Hollywood Confidential, which contained a full chapter and a quotable interview with the actor from 1967. Truth be told, it’s the only decent chapter in the book that consists of articles from an old men’s magazine. Can you tell by the cover? Anyway, for a quite a while, other than film periodicals with some deep background info, this one chapter remained the only book that was available on the actor. That is until…..

Published in 1980 by St. Martin's.

Published in 1980 by St. Martin’s.

• At the time I began working on my bio, the book Marvin, by veteran British gossip columnist Donald Zec, was the only one in existence. Not to be too catty, but what a blown opportunity! Zec had Marvin’s co-operation on the project, as well as access to several now deceased interviews subjects, and what does he do with such gold? He constantly overwrites important passages with his own drippy, salacious style of gossipy prose. Very frustrating as both a fan of the actor and as a researcher, I must say. Lee’s first wife, Betty Marvin, told me she met with Zec. When they went to some restaurant, all he did was constantly point out the celebrities and what he thought of them, which she said she found particularly annoying, much like his writing style. ‘Nuff said.

Published in 1997 by Faber & Faber.

Published in 1997 by Faber & Faber.

• Lee’s second wife, Pam Marvin, penned Lee: A Romance in 1997 while I was still working on my own book. I attempted several times to interview her but was declined each time. On the last attempt I was made aware of the fact that she was writing her own book about  Lee and to leave it at that. When I wrote her that our two projects would not conflict with each other but actually be a boost, I received no response. I realized I was grasping with that statement but when her book came out, it turns out I was right. Hardly a full-fledged biography of Lee Marvin, it proved to be the memoirs of the author and her eventual life with the actor. Far too much of the tome is also taken up by the palimony case, in which the author includes trial transcripts with snarky italicized comments in between. I need not had worried.

Published in 2000 by McFarland.

Published in 2000 by McFarland.

• Robert J. Lentz’s book, Lee Marvin: His Films & Career, was aptly titled as it is in no way, shape, or form a biography. It is, however, a pretty comprehensive look at the actor’s career with a minimal amount of errors. It proved to be a valuable resource for further research on my part as it’s lengthy bibliography was a godsend. His personal assessment of Marvin’s films & TV work are fairly on the money in most but certainly not all cases. Some more biographical info would have been nice but my biggest quibble had nothing to do with the author. Speciality publishing companies, such as McFarland and Scarecrow put out wonderful products for the most part but can anybody explain to me why they are so damn expensive?!? Lentz’s book retails for $45.00!!! I know they sell mostly to libraries and research facilities, but c’mon! Not everybody can shell out such cash for a book, especially since most of their product lack even a dust jacket. Be reasonable for crying out loud! Geez!

Published in 2009 by iUniverse.

Published in 2009 by iUniverse.

• Now we come to Betty Marvin’s book, Tales of a Hollywood Housewife. At the outset, I should explain that I am extremely biased, as I got to know and genuinely like Betty. In fact, our first meeting consisted of an all-nighter, in which she reminisced about Lee over several bottles of wine and a whole lot of laughter and in truth, a few tears. I just can’t say enough about this remarkable woman. When she told me she was working on her book, she sought a minimal amount of advice from me, such as if she should use her real name or a non de plume. My advice was to call herself Mrs. James Coburn. Luckily, she didn’t take my advice. The book is a wonderful personal journey, from her traumatic childhood, through her years with Lee, up to the time of the book’s publication, in which she once again comes out triumphant. Sure, some of her our stories overlap during the Lee Marvin years, but certainly not to the extent that they conflict in any way. After all, my book was a biography of Lee Marvin. Hers was an unabashed autobiography without any hidden agendas or misleading concepts. A terrific read I highly recommend without reservation.

Published in 1999 by Naval Institute Press.

Published in 1999 by Naval Institute Press.

• Part of an interesting series of books on celebrities in different branches of the military, the one focusing on the USMC naturally had to include a chapter on Marvin. Titled Stars in the Corps, it did a thorough job of delineating the military careers of the those pictured on the cover. So why not put Oscar-winner and 1960s leading box office champion Lee Marvin among the cover montage? At least in place of say, oh, I don’t know, Hugh O’Brian? Barry Corbin? Lee Powell?????? Seriously, what were they thinking? Maybe it was because the chapter on Lee, though interesting, consisted of culled quotes from Donald Zec’s book (!). Ah well, such is life. I will add that the other chapters are pretty detailed and cover a substantial range of actors, with eye-opening accounts of their Marine Corps experiences. Once again, the catty part of me has to mention the downside: the writing is rather clunky, especially when it came to the actors’ post-military life and their acting careers.

Having said all that about the above titles, I think it becomes rather obvious why I came to research and write Lee Marvin Point Blank. Not merely a fan of the actor, there was clearly a dearth of good material about his life in the open market. All of which comes down to the the most obvious of all. What exactly is the best biography on the award-winning, legendary actor??? Hmm, I wonder…..
paperback

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