WORKS OF NON-FICTION: TOP TEN FAVORITES

WORKS OF NON-FICTION, unlike choosing favorite fiction, is a much tougher category for yours truly. Being an avid reader, I’ve chosen to read more non-fiction throughout my life than fiction, making the effort to choose a favorite as difficult as choosing a favorite offspring.

Granted, the specific realm of choice for me leans more towards works involving film and film history, rather than other subjects of non-fiction. For instance, I’ve never been much of fan of ‘true-crime’ or some other such tawdry genres but I do have an affinity for biography beyond film, such as politics and the like. But, since I made the rule for myself, I stuck (pretty much) to a singular subject, for better or for worse. Besides, even if I included other subject matter, it would be just as difficult for me. to choose or narrow down. Maybe I should have just titled this work of movie non-fiction? Nah, I like this the way it is, with some of the exceptions I included.
So, below is my list of top ten favorite works of non-fiction in no particular order of preference. See any you might agree with?

  • Dwayne Epstein

    10. LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK by Dwayne Epstein….Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

     

    9. THE SIXTIES massive trade paperback (11×15) published by Rolling Stone with various authors.

    8. PAPILLON by Henri Charriere. Yeah, my well-read copy scanned above.

    7. HOW TO TALK DIRTY AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE by Lenny Bruce.

    6. CLOSE-UPS: THE MOVIE STAR BOOK edited by Danny Peary.

    5. MCQUEEN: PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN REBEL by Marshall Terrill.

    4. MY WICKED, WICKED WAYS by Errol Flynn.

    3. DINO: LIVING HIGH IN THE DIRTY BUSINESS OF DREAMS by Nick Tosches.

    2. SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE by Abbie Hoffman.

    CAGNEY BY CAGNEY….nuff said.

     

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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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