Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Hugo Williams - I Knew the Bride: review

Hugo Williams: 'I need poems more than they need me'
The poet is best known for writing about his colourful family but a serious illness has led him to darker places

By Sameer Rahim
21 Apr 2014

The poet Hugo Williams lives in a north London house you could describe as un-carefully preserved. Squeezed on the walls are pictures of his father, the actor Hugh Williams; the shelves groan with 50 volumes of personal scrapbooks; and the living room walls retain their dark pink Sixties hue. One thing that has changed drastically is the house’s worth. When he and his French wife Hermine Demoriane bought the place in 1966 they paid just £5,000. “Our neighbours thought we had been ripped off,” he tells me airily. “In the Fifties these houses went for £500.”

I suspect that Williams, now 72 years old, does not care for anything so bourgeois as property prices. The house evokes his parents’ hand-to-mouth bohemian world. His father Hugh was a successful stage actor who appeared in more than 50 films. His mother Margaret Vyner was a model and actress whose alluring picture hangs above his desk. Money troubles meant that Hugo’s Eton schooling was paid for with a loan from Michael Astor.

In Williams’s 1985 collection Writing Home, Hugh is a vivid presence. “I was a lovesick crammer-candidate, reading / poetry under the desk in History, / wondering how to go about my life. / 'Write a novel!’ said my father. / 'Put everything in! Sell the film rights for a fortune! / Sit up straight!’” Williams didn’t write a novel or follow his father into acting. Instead he became a poet.

“I tend to be treated as a biographical subject because I’m so colourful,” Williams tells me. “It’s not particularly relevant though, is it?” But when the poems draw so much from his life, curiosity is surely natural? “People think it’s something to do with self-love or fascination with father or showbusiness. It’s not: I write poems and poems need material. I don’t know how to find material that isn’t mine.” He seems a touch defensive for a poet whose first collection Symptoms of Loss was published when he was only 23; and who won the TS Eliot Prize for Billy’s Rain in 1999. But because of his light subject matter and smooth diction – a far cry from modernism’s jagged edges – his work has not always been taken seriously. “It doesn’t seem to go down very well in the academic world,” he says. He switches tack: “These things are written as a higher form of entertainment,” he admits. “Fred Astaire and all that: if it looks difficult you’re not trying hard enough.”

His new collection, I Knew the Bride, returns to family memories and painful love affairs. (He and his wife take a bohemian attitude to fidelity.) The same titles, lines and places crop up from his previous work. Williams has been accused by the critic Robert Potts of being a “one-club golfer”: writing the same poem again and again. He counters that his poems are attempts to encapsulate common experiences: “Love is a universal theme. You’re already halfway there. The rest is just fiddling with the language.”

One increasing preoccupation is mortality. This book’s title poem is a memorial for his sister Polly, who died in 2004. “At the Pillars” is dedicated to Mick Imlah, with whom he worked at the TLS, and who died in 2009. The Pillars refers to the Soho pub the Pillars of Hercules, where Williams hung out with Imlah and other writers in the circle of the editor Ian Hamilton. His early poems were influenced by Thom Gunn but, he says, “I did get over it by the time of my first collection because Ian Hamilton had got hold of me.” He imitated the “intense sensitivity and shortness” of Hamilton’s poems, though Williams was more prolific than his mentor. “I’ve needed poems more than they’ve needed me.”

Does he feel nostalgic for those days? “I feel nostalgic for everything now that I’m ill,” he tells me. Three years ago Williams was diagnosed with kidney disease and now has dialysis treatment three times a week. He writes about the experience in an 18-poem sequence entitled “From the Dialysis Ward”. Were they hard to write? “It was pretty easy because of all the material rushing in.”

On the way to hospital he cuts through St Pancras Old Church Cemetery, where Thomas Hardy once supervised the removal of bodies. Around an ash tree he placed a series of headstones that look, in Williams’s memorable phrase, “like children listening to a story”. “I got a lot of comfort from that garden,” Williams tells me. “The Beatles went there for a photo shoot, and one of Bach’s sons was buried there. I have an idea that Shelley propositioned Mary on her mother’s grave.”

Other dialysis poems tackle the physical process of having his blood cleaned. One poem opens, “Needles have the sudden beauty / of a first line” – an exquisite analogy between the procedure and the painful release of creativity. Another plays darkly on his own improvised freelance existence: “The beauty of dialysis / is that it saves you the trouble / of planning too far ahead”. Williams is not one for self-pity. “I’m very cold-blooded about the business of writing poetry,” he says, adding quickly, “I’m cold-blooded in the execution but not in the feeling.”

In the year since he wrote these poems, Williams’s health has deteriorated. He is waiting for a kidney transplant but soon might be too ill for the operation. His daughter Murphy has set up a Facebook campaign to find him a donor. Williams, in his very English way, downplays the whole thing. “They have tried to dramatise it a bit – though it’s true that if you’re not well you can’t get a transplant.” Without prompting he adds: “Murphy did offer me a kidney but she changed her mind… At the moment three or four people have suggested they might donate. I’ve got a slightly dubious feeling about it all. It seems too good to be true.”

There have been a number of sympathetic comments on the Facebook page – “I’ve always liked your poetry, that kind of thing.” He doesn’t seem comfortable being an object of pity. “All the answers on Facebook are to do with kindness. It’s a bit annoying. I hope this kind of charitableness doesn’t affect the reviews.”

His illness, it seems, has made him even more dreamily obsessed with his past. Before I leave he shows me one of his many scrapbooks. “Whatever happens first is the true thing,” he tells me. “That’s true for everyone.” In one of his dialysis poems, “Zombie”, he speaks of the “friend” who sucks his blood. “He keeps me alive / in the sense that memories are alive.” The friend might be a nurse or a needle; it could just as easily be poetry.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/authorinterviews/10768611/Hugo-Williams-I-need-poems-more-than-they-need-me.html

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

David Hockney - Yorkshire Spring Drawings

David Hockney's Yorkshire spring drawings
Following a minor stroke, David Hockney almost gave up on his annual Spring drawings. But when he returned to the Yorkshire Wolds, he was as inspired by the landscape as ever

David Hockney
The Guardian
Friday 18 April 2014 10.00 BST


Detail from Woldgate, 6 - 7 February, 2013

I decided to do an arrival of spring in black and white (and greys) at the beginning of 2013. A change from the colour I had used in 2011 for my iPad prints shown at the Royal Academy in 2012. I almost gave up on the 2013 pictures a few times, but persevered and finished them around the end of May last year.
Detail from Woldgate, 30 April, 1 & 5 May, 2013

The Chinese say black and white contains colour, and so it can. They are five separate views of Woldgate, and with each one I had to wait for the changes to happen. Some were too close to the previous ones and I realised I was being impatient. I had to wait for a bigger change. I thought it was an exciting thing to do. It made me look much harder at what I was drawing.
Vandalized Totem in Snow

The totems were drawn immediately on my return from my exhibition in Cologne in November 2012. I drove out on Woldgate and noticed the totem had been deliberately sawn through. A bit before this I was sent photographs of graffiti that had been painted on it. Annoying, but I thought the winter would take them away. I was at first very sad and went to bed for two days a bit depressed by the vandalism. Then I decided to draw it.
Detail from Woldgate, 8 May 2013

I had had a very minor stroke that had kept me in London, and the first drawing afterwards took me two days to do (the days are a lot shorter in November). The stroke only manifested itself in my speech. I found I couldn't finish sentences, and although it came back after about a month I find now I talk a lot less.
Detail from Woldgate, 9 & 12 May 2013

But it did not affect my drawing. I think it even made me concentrate more. I thought, well I'm OK so long as I can draw, I don't really need to say much any more; I thought, I've said enough already.
Detail from Woldgate, 26 May 2013

When I sent the drawings to California, my studio director, Gregory Evans, said straight away he thought there was a difference that he could see. Anyway, all I did for the next six months was draw with charcoal. I made about 25 portrait drawings that took two days each to do, and kept up The Arrival of Spring drawings.

• David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring is at Annely Juda Fine Art, 23 Dering Street, London W1, from 8 May until 12 July 2014. See http://www.annelyjudafineart.co.uk/exhibitions/david-hockney

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/apr/18/david-hockney-yorkshire-spring-drawings?commentpage=1

Monday, 21 April 2014

Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter RIP

Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter's life story is a warning to us about racism and revenge
In 1976, I was a junior lawyer on Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter's retrial defence team. His story has a significance that should outlive his death

Geoffrey Robertson
theguardian.com
Monday 21 April 2014

In the summer of 1976, I walked the mean streets of Paterson, New Jersey, with Rubin "Hurricane" Carter – and encountered the raw, bloodshot hate-gaze from the white folks who passed us by. Carter was instantly recognisable: he was as bald and black and muscley as the Michelin man.

"What chance do you give me?" he asked this then-young British lawyer, shrugging his boxer's shoulders. "You can see my verdict in their eyes. In America, nothing has really changed."

On the political surface, it seemed to have changed. In 1966, when Carter – then a top professional boxer – was first convicted by an all-white jury for slaying three of their kind in a local bar, the governor of Georgia was fighting desegregation with a pick-axe. Now his successor, Jimmy Carter, was on the way to the US presidency, preaching racial harmony and quoting Bob Dylan in his campaign ads. Rubin's original 1966 conviction for an apparently motiveless triple murder was based on palpably inadequate evidence and came at a time when he was a contender for the world middleweight title.

Yet Carter was re-convicted on even weaker evidence at his retrial in 1976 and returned to prison. Not until 1985 was this wrongful reconviction overturned. His story inspired one of Dylan's best protest songs and Norman Jewison's fine movie, in which he was played by Denzel Washington. As a warning against possibility of convicting – and executing – the innocent because of prosecutors who play the race card and hide exculpatory evidence, the story of "the Hurricane" has a significance that will outlive his death.

It all began with the riots in Watts and Harlem in the early 1960s, which left 13 black children killed by police bullets. Rubin Carter, who until then had been marching non-violently with Martin Luther King, became a black Muslim and started to talk to the press about fighting back. That made him a public enemy in his home town of Paterson, where he had been arrested at the age of eleven for stabbing a man he said had indecently assaulted him. He was put away in a reformatory for seven years and was not forgiven – even as he began winning boxing titles.

The police officer involved in arresting him as a child, Vincent de Simone, happened to be on duty 18 years later, on a night when two black gunmen walked into the Lafayette Bar and Grill and opened fire, killing three customers before escaping in what some witnesses said was a white Chevrolet. Long after a car of that make had eluded a police chase, Carter and a young friend, John Artis, were pulled over in Carter's white Dodge. De Simone ordered the two brought back to the bar, but no witnesses could identify them as the gunmen. Alfred Bellow and Arthur Bradley, two professional burglars who had seen the gunmen while themselves out to rob the same bar, gave descriptions which were nothing like Carter or Artis.

But de Simone was as implacable as Inspector Javert from Les Misérables. He dragged the suspects to the hospital bedside of a critically-injured survivor who denied that they were the men who had just shot him. So Carter and Artis were released.

The only physical evidence against them was a lead-plated .32 Smith and Wesson bullet, which a policeman claimed to have found in the back of Carter's car. It could have been fired from the murder weapon – but the bullets which riddled the Lafayette victims were all plated with copper. Lead-plated .32 were not in common use ... except in the Patterson police force, where they were standard issue.

Several months later, de Simone persuaded Bellow and Bradley to change their minds and identify Carter and Artis as the gunmen. In return for changing their story, the two burglars were offered a host of inducements – early parole from previous sentences, a $12,000 reward and a blind eye towards the crimes they committed on the night (Bellow had robbed the Lafayette cash register while the victims lay dying). These deals were not disclosed to the defence. The prosecution even suppressed their initial description of the gunmen as "thinly built, both 5'11' in height" (the Hurricane was an unmistakably stocky 5'7").

The prosecution relied on Bellow and Bradley – and unspoken racial prejudice. On the jury table, the blood-stained shirt, trousers, socks and shoes of each victim was carefully laid out. By the shirt collar was set a wedding photo and beneath the shoes was placed a picture of the bullet-ridden body on the mortuary slab. The prosecutor called for the defendants to be sent to the electric chair.

I met Rubin Carter during his release on bail in 1976. He had, quite literally, written his way out of life imprisonment with a memoir, The 16th Round, which revived interest in his case. Selwyn Raab of the New York Times cracked Bellow and Bradley, who confessed to perjury. Bob Dylan, who years before had so movingly mourned the lonesome death of Hattie Carroll, now set the story of "the Hurricane" to a driving, angry beat. Mohammed Ali led protest marches, and an appeals court ordered a retrial.

But the "free Hurricane Carter" campaign outraged the local police department, of which de Simone was by then chief – as well as the judges and politicians of New Jersey. It became a matter of honour to secure Carter's reconviction. The state devoted massive resources to the prosecution: I counted no less than 49 of their lawyers and investigators, ranged against a handful of Carter defenders working for the most part without fee. The state had the money and now it invented a motive by claiming the Lafayette attack was a Black Power revenge killing.

The trial judge permitted this preposterous change of tack. At the pre-trial hearings I attended, he seemed to loathe the out-of-town defence lawyers and, after he allowed the prosecution to play the race card, the feeling was mutual. "What sort of lousy judge would make a ruling like that?" protested the "movement" lawyer Lenny Weinglass (deploying a style of advocacy I made a mental note to avoid when back at the Old Bailey).

Outside court, I observed the downside of press freedom, American-style. The local press were determined to prejudice the trial: in its lead-up, I noted 17 editorials and 320 front page articles in local papers, all hostile to Carter. Half the articles contained inflammatory descriptions, referring to him as a "murderer," "assassin," "criminal" and "killer of white people.

The result was predicable. The prosecutor relied on the new "Black Power" reprisal theory and on attacking the "Madison Avenue Hucksters" like Rabb and Dylan and the New York Times, whose campaign had provoked this supposedly unnecessary exercise. The verdict, once again, was guilty.

So, "the Hurricane" hunkered down for another life term. His release in 1985 was due to a dogged defence lawyer, Myron Beldock, who found the "smoking gun" evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. The judge quashed the conviction on the ground of that misconduct and "the prosecutor"s appeal to racism rather than reason." The real hero of the story was John Artis, who had fatefully offered to drive Carter home on the night of the Lafayette murders. In 1966, he was 19, with an exemplary record and a good career ahead of him. Instead, he wasted the next 20 years in prison. From the outset, the prosecution had offered him plea bargains and freedom deals if only he would implicate Carter. His refusal to do so, especially when threatened with the electric chair, was truly courageous.

"The Hurricane" devoted the rest of his life to projects that secured the release of innocent prisoners and campaigned powerfully against the death penalty – he was, after all, the living embodiment of the argument. He died over Easter in the presence of John Artis, the friend who lost two decades of his own life as punishment for refusing to help the New Jersey police to send Rubin to the electric chair.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/21/rubin-hurricane-carters-life-story-is-a-warning-to-us-about-racism-and-revenge

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Gabriel García Márquez RIP

Gabriel García Márquez, Conjurer of Literary Magic, Dies at 87

By Jonathan Kandell
17 April 2014

Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian novelist whose “One Hundred Years of Solitude” established him as a giant of 20th-century literature, died on Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87.

Cristóbal Pera, his former editor at Random House, confirmed the death. Mr. García Márquez learned he had lymphatic cancer in 1999, and a brother said in 2012 that he had developed senile dementia.

Mr. García Márquez, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, wrote fiction rooted in a mythical Latin American landscape of his own creation, but his appeal was universal. His books were translated into dozens of languages. He was among a select roster of canonical writers — Dickens, Tolstoy and Hemingway among them — who were embraced both by critics and by a mass audience.

“Each new work of his is received by expectant critics and readers as an event of world importance,” the Swedish Academy of Letters said in awarding him the Nobel.

Mr. García Márquez was a master of the literary genre known as magical realism, in which the miraculous and the real converge. In his novels and stories, storms rage for years, flowers drift from the skies, tyrants survive for centuries, priests levitate and corpses fail to decompose. And, more plausibly, lovers rekindle their passion after a half-century apart.

Magical realism, he said, sprang from Latin America’s history of vicious dictators and romantic revolutionaries, of long years of hunger, illness and violence. In accepting his Nobel, Mr. García Márquez said: “Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination. For our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”

Like many Latin American intellectuals and artists, Mr. García Márquez felt impelled to speak out on the political issues of his day. He viewed the world from a left-wing perspective, bitterly opposing Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the right-wing Chilean dictator, and unswervingly supporting Fidel Castro in Cuba. Mr. Castro became such a close friend that Mr. García Márquez showed him drafts of his unpublished books.

No draft had more impact than the one for “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” Mr. García Márquez’s editor began reading it at home one rainy day, and as he read page after page by this unknown Colombian author, his excitement grew. Soon he called the Argentine novelist Tomás Eloy Martínez and summoned him urgently to the home.

Mr. Eloy Martinez remembered entering the foyer with wet shoes and encountering pages strewn across the floor by the editor in his eagerness to read through the work. They were the first pages of a book that in 1967 would vault Mr. García Márquez onto the world stage. He later authorized an English translation, by Gregory Rabassa. In Spanish or English, readers were tantalized from its opening sentences:

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Col. Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of 20 adobe houses built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.”

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” would sell tens of millions of copies. The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda called it “the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since ‘Don Quixote.’ ” The novelist William Kennedy hailed it as “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.”

Mr. García Márquez was rattled by the praise. He grew to hate “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” he said in interviews, because he feared his subsequent work would not measure up to it in readers’ eyes. He need not have worried. Almost all his 15 other novels and short-story collections were lionized by critics and devoured by readers.

Lived With His Grandparents

Gabriel García Márquez was born in Aracataca, a small town near Colombia’s Caribbean coast, on March 6, 1927, the eldest child of Luisa Santiaga Márquez and Gabriel Elijio García. His father, a postal clerk, telegraph operator and itinerant pharmacist, could barely support his wife and 12 children; Gabriel, the eldest, spent his early childhood living in the large, ramshackle house of his maternal grandparents. The house influenced his writing; it seemed inhabited, he said, by the ghosts his grandmother conjured in the stories she told.

His maternal grandfather, Nicolás Márquez Mejía, a retired army colonel, was also an influence — “the most important figure of my life,” Mr. García Márquez said. The grandfather bore a marked resemblance to Colonel Buendía, the protagonist of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” and the book’s mythical village of Macondo draws heavily on Aracataca.

In his 2002 memoir, “Living to Tell the Tale,” Mr. García Márquez recalled a river trip back to Aracataca in 1950, his first trip there since childhood.

“The first thing that struck me,” he wrote, “was the silence. A material silence I could have identified blindfolded among all the silences in the world. The reverberation of the heat was so intense that you seemed to be looking at everything through undulating glass. As far as the eye could see there was no recollection of human life, nothing that was not covered by a faint sprinkling of burning dust.”

Much of his fiction unfolds in or near Macondo, just as William Faulkner, whom he admired, invented Yoknapatawpha County as the Mississippi setting for some of his own novels.

Mr. García Márquez moved to Bogotá as a teenager. He studied law there but never received a degree; he turned instead to journalism. The late 1940s and early ’50s in Colombia were a period of civil strife known as La Violencia. The ideological causes were nebulous, but the savagery was stark, as many as 300,000 deaths. La Violencia would become the background for several of his novels.

Mr. García Márquez eked out a living writing for newspapers in Cartagena and then Barranquilla, where he lived in the garret of a brothel and saw a future in literature. “It was a bohemian life: finish at the paper at 1 in the morning, then write a poem or a short story until about 3, then go out to have a beer,” he said in an interview in 1996. “When you went home at dawn, ladies who were going to Mass would cross to the other side of the street for fear that you were either drunk or intending to mug or rape them.”

He read intensely — the Americans Hemingway, Faulkner, Twain and Melville; the Europeans Dickens, Tolstoy, Proust, Kafka and Virginia Woolf.

“I cannot imagine how anyone could even think of writing a novel without having at least a vague of idea of the 10,000 years of literature that have gone before,” Mr. García Márquez said. But, he added, “I’ve never tried to imitate authors I’ve admired. On the contrary, I’ve done all I could not to imitate them.”

As a journalist he scored a scoop when he interviewed a sailor who had been portrayed by the Colombian government as the heroic survivor of a navy destroyer lost at sea. The sailor admitted to him that the ship had been carrying a heavy load of contraband household goods, which unloosed during a storm and caused the ship to list enough to sink. His report, in 1955, infuriated Gen. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, the country’s dictator, and Mr. García Márquez fled to Europe. He spent two years there as a foreign correspondent.

Unimpressed by Europe

Mr. García Márquez was less impressed by Western Europe than many Latin American writers, who looked to the Old World as their cultural fountainhead. His dispatches often reflected his belief that Europeans were patronizing toward Latin America even though their own societies were in decline.

He echoed these convictions in his Nobel address. Europeans, he said, “insist on measuring us with the yardstick that they use for themselves, forgetting that the ravages of life are not the same for all, and that the quest for our own identity is just as arduous and bloody for us as it was for them.”

Mr. García Márquez lost his job when his newspaper was shut down by the Rojas Pinilla regime. Stranded in Paris, he scavenged and sold bottles to survive, but he managed to begin a short novel, “In Evil Hour.”

While working on that book he took time off in 1957 to complete another short novel, “No One Writes to the Colonel,” about an impoverished retired army officer, not unlike the author’s grandfather, who waits endlessly for a letter replying to his requests for a military pension. It was published to acclaim four years later. (“In Evil Hour” was also published in the early 1960s.)

Mr. García Márquez alternated between journalism and fiction in the late 1950s. (A multipart newspaper series on a sailor lost at sea for 10 days was later published in book form as “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.”) While working for newspapers and magazines in Venezuela, he wrote a short-story collection, “Big Mama’s Funeral,” which is set in Macondo and incorporates the kind of magical elements he would master in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” From 1959 to 1961 he supported the Castro revolution and wrote for Prensa Latina, the official Cuban press agency.

In 1961 he moved to Mexico City, where he would live on and off for the rest of his life. It was there, in 1965, after a four-year dry spell in which he wrote no fiction, that Mr. García Márquez began “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” The inspiration for it, he said, came to him while he was driving to Acapulco.

Returning home, he began an almost undistracted 18 months of writing while his wife, Mercedes, looked after the household. “When I was finished writing,” he recalled, “my wife said: ‘Did you really finish it? We owe $12,000.’ ”

With the book’s publication in 1967, in Buenos Aires, the family never owed a penny again. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” was sold out within days.

In following the rise and fall of the Buendía family through several generations of war and peace, affluence and poverty, the novel seemed to many critics and readers the defining saga of Latin America’s social and political history.

Mr. García Márquez made no claim to have invented magical realism; he pointed out that elements of it had appeared before in Latin American literature. But no one before him had used the style with such artistry, exuberance and power. Magical realism would soon inspire writers on both sides of the Atlantic, most notably Isabel Allende in Chile and Salman Rushdie in Britain.

“Reality is also the myths of the common people,” Mr. García Márquez told an interviewer. “I realized that reality isn’t just the police that kill people, but also everything that forms part of the life of the common people.”

In 1973, when General Pinochet overthrew Chile’s democratically elected Marxist president, Salvador Allende, who committed suicide, Mr. García Márquez vowed never to write as long as General Pinochet remained in power.

The Pinochet dictatorship lasted 17 years, but Mr. García Márquez released himself from his vow well before it ended. “I never thought he’d last so long,” he said in a 1997 interview with The Washington Post. “Time convinced me I was wrong. What I was doing was allowing Pinochet to stop me from writing, which means I had submitted to voluntary censorship.”

In 1975 he published his next novel, “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” about a dictator in a phantasmagorical Latin American state who rules for so many decades that nobody can recall what life was like before him. As he had predicted, some critics faulted the work for not matching the artistry of “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” But others raved about it, and it became a global best seller. He called it his best novel.

In “Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” published in 1981, Mr. García Márquez used journalistic techniques to tell a story, apparently drawn from a real incident, in which the brothers of a woman who has lost her virginity murder the man responsible, Santiago Nasar. The brothers announce their intention to avenge their family honor, but because of a variety of odd circumstances, Nasar remains unaware of his impending fate.

“Love in the Time of Cholera,” published in 1985, was Mr. García Márquez’s most romantic novel, the story of the resumption of a passionate relationship between a recently widowed septuagenarian and the lover she had broken with more than 50 years before.

“The General in His Labyrinth,” published in 1989, combined imagination with historical fact to conjure up the last days of Simón Bolívar, the father of South America’s independence from Spain. The portrait of the aging Bolívar as a flatulent philanderer, abandoned and ridiculed by his onetime followers, aroused controversy on a continent that viewed him as South America’s version of George Washington. But Mr. García Márquez said that his depiction had been drawn from a careful perusal of Bolívar’s personal letters.

As his fame grew, Mr. García Márquez — or Gabo, as he was called by friends — enjoyed a lifestyle he would have found inconceivable in his struggling youth. He kept homes in Mexico City, Barcelona, Paris and Cartagena, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Recognizable by his bushy mustache, he dressed fastidiously, preferring a white monotone encompassing linen suits, shirts, shoes and even watchbands.

Devoted to the Left

He contributed his prestige, time and money to left-wing causes. He helped finance a Venezuelan political party. He was a strong defender of the Sandinistas, the leftist revolutionaries who took power in Nicaragua.

For more than three decades the State Department denied Mr. García Márquez a visa to travel in the United States, supposedly because he had been a member of the Colombian Communist Party in the 1950s but almost certainly because of his continuing espousal of left-wing causes and his friendship with Mr. Castro. The ban was rescinded in 1995 after President Bill Clinton invited him to Martha’s Vineyard.

Mr. García Márquez’s ties to Mr. Castro troubled some intellectuals and human rights advocates. Susan Sontag wrote in the 1980s, “To me it’s scandalous that a writer of such enormous talent be a spokesperson for a government which has put more people in jail (proportionately to its population) than any other government in the world.”

He attributed the criticism to what he called Americans’ “almost pornographic obsession with Castro.” But he became sensitive enough about the issue to intercede on behalf of jailed Cuban dissidents.

After receiving his cancer diagnosis in 1999, Mr. García Márquez devoted most of his subsequent writing to his memoirs. One exception was the novella “Memories of My Melancholy Whores,” about the love affair between a 90-year-old man and a 14-year-old prostitute, published in 2004.

In July 2012, his brother, Jaime, was quoted as saying that Mr. García Márquez had senile dementia and had stopped writing. Mr. Pera, the author’s editor at Random House Mondadori, said at the time that Mr. García Márquez had been working on a novel, “We’ll See Each Other in August,” but that no publication date had been scheduled. The author seemed disinclined to have it published, Mr. Pera said: “He told me, ‘This far along I don’t need to publish more.’ ”

Dozens of television and film adaptations were made of Mr. García Márquez’s works, but none achieved the critical or commercial success of his writing, and he declined requests for the movie rights to “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” The novel’s readers, he once said, “always imagine the characters as they want, as their aunt or their grandfather, and the moment you bring that to the screen, the reader’s margin for creativity disappears.”

Besides his wife, Mercedes, his survivors include two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.

Mr. García Márquez attributed his rigorous, disciplined schedule in part to his sons. As a young father he took them to school in the morning and picked them up in the afternoon. During the interval — from 8 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon — he would write.

“When I finished one book, I wouldn’t write for a while,” he said in 1966. “Then I had to learn how to do it all over again. The arm goes cold; there’s a learning process you have to go through again before you rediscover the warmth that comes over you when you are writing.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/18/books/gabriel-garcia-marquez-literary-pioneer-dies-at-87.html?_r=0

And a little treat for you all:

Gabriel Garcia Marquez Meets Ernest Hemingway
By Gabriel García Márquez
26 July 1981

I recognized him immediately, passing with his wife Mary Welsh on the Boulevard St. Michel in Paris one rainy spring day in 1957. He walked on the other side of the street, in the direction of the Luxembourg Gardens, wearing a very worn pair of cowboy pants, a plaid shirt and a ballplayer's cap. The only thing that didn't look as if it belonged to him was a pair of metal-rimmed glasses, tiny and round, which gave him a premature grandfatherly air. He had turned 59, and he was large and almost too visible,but he didn't give the impression of brutal strength that he undoubtedly wished to, because his hips were narrow and his legs looked a little emaciated above his coarse lumberjack shoes. He looked so alive amid the secondhand bookstalls and the youthful torrent from the Sorbonne that it was impossible to imagine he had but four years left to live.

For a fraction of a second, as always seemed to be the case, I found myself divided between my two competing roles. I didn't know whether to ask him for an interview or cross the avenue to express my unqualified admiration for him. But with either proposition, I faced the same great inconvenience. At the time, I spoke the same rudimentary English that I still speak now, and I wasn't very sure about his bullfighter's Spanish. And so I didn't do either of the things that could have spoiled that moment, but instead cupped both hands over my mouth and, like Tarzan in the jungle, yelled from one sidewalk to the other: ''Maaaeeestro!'' Ernest Hemingway understood that there could be no other master amid the multitude of students, and he turned, raised his hand and shouted to me in Castillian in a very childish voice, ''Adiooos, amigo!'' It was the only time I saw him.

At the time, I was a 28-year-old newspaperman with a published novel and a literary prize in Colombia, but I was adrift and without direction in Paris. My great masters were the two North American novelists who seemed to have the least in common. I had read everything they had published until then, but not as complementary reading - rather, just the opposite, as two distinct and almost mutually exclusive forms of conceiving of literature. One of them was William Faulkner, whom I had never laid eyes on and whom I could only imagine as the farmer in shirtsleeves scratching his arm beside two little white dogs in the celebrated portrait of him taken by Cartier-Bresson. The other was the ephemeral man who had just said goodbye to me from across the street, leaving me with the impression that something had happened in my life, and had happened for all time.

I don't know who said that novelists read the novels of others only to figure out how they are written. I believe it's true. We aren't satisfied with the secrets exposed on the surface of the page: we turn the book around to find the seams. In a way that's impossible to explain, we break the book down to its essential parts and then put it back together after we understand the mysteries of its personal clockwork. The effort is disheartening in Faulkner's books, because he doesn't seem to have an organic system of writing, but instead walks blindly through his biblical universe, like a herd of goats loosed in a shop full of crystal. Managing to dismantle a page of his, one has the impression of springs and screws left over, that it's impossible to put back together in its original state. Hemingway, by contrast, with less inspiration, with less passion and less craziness but with a splendid severity, left the screws fully exposed, as they are on freight cars. Maybe for that reason Faulkner is a writer who has had much to do with my soul, but Hemingway is the one who had the most to do with my craft - not simply for his books, but for his astounding knowledge of the aspect of craftsmanship in the science of writing. In his historic interview with George Plimpton in The Paris Review, (Hemingway) showed for all time - contrary to the Romantic notion of creativity -that economic comfort and good health are conducive to writing; that one of the chief difficulties is arranging the words well; that when writing becomes hard it is good to reread one's own books, in order to remember that it always was hard; that one can write anywhere so long as there are no visitors and no telephone; and that it is not true that journalism finishes off a writer, as has so often been said - rather, just the opposite, so long as one leaves it behind soon enough. ''Once writing has become the principal vice and the greatest pleasure,'' he said, ''only death can put an end to it.'' Finally, his lesson was the discovery that each day's work should only be interrupted when one knows where to begin again the next day. I don't think that any more useful advice has ever been given about writing. It is, no more and no less, the absolute remedy for the most terrible specter of writers: the morning agony of facing the blank page.

All of Hemingway's work shows that his spirit was brilliant but short-lived. And it is understandable. An internal tension like his, subjected to such a severe dominance of technique, can't be sustained within the vast and hazardous reaches of a novel. It was his nature, and his error was to try to exceed his own splendid limits. And that is why everything superfluous is more noticeable in him than in other writers. His novels are like short stories that are out of proportion, that include too much. In contrast, the best thing about his stories is that they give the impression something is missing, and this is precisely what confers their mystery and their beauty. Jorge Luis Borges, who is one of the great writers of our time, has the same limits, but has had the sense not to try to surpass them.

Francis Macomber's single shot at the lion demonstrates a great deal as a lesson in hunting, but also as a summation of the science of writing. In one of his stories, Hemingway wrote that a bull from Liria, after brushing past the chest of the matador, returned like ''a cat turning a corner.'' I believe, in all humility, that that observation is one of those inspired bits of foolishness which come only from the most magnificent writers. Hemingway's work is full of such simple and dazzling discoveries, which reveal the point at which he adjusted his definition of literary writing: that, like an iceberg, it is only well grounded if it is supported below by seveneighths of its volume.

That consciousness of technique is unquestionably the reason Hemingway won't achieve glory with his novels, but will with his more disciplined short stories. Talking of ''For Whom the Bell Tolls,'' he said that he had no preconceived plan for constructing the book, but rather invented it each day as he went along. He didn't have to say it: it's obvious. In contrast, his instantaneously inspired short stories are unassailable. Like the three he wrote one May afternoon in a Madrid pension, when a snowstorm forced the cancellation of a bullfight at the feast of San Isidro. Those stories, as he himself told George Plimpton, were ''The Killers,'' ''Ten Indians'' and ''Today Is Friday,'' and all three are magisterial. Along those lines, for my taste, the story in which his powers are most compressed is one of his shortest ones, ''Cat in the Rain.''

Nevertheless, even if it appears to be a mockery of his own fate, it seems to me that his most charming and human work is his least successful one: ''Across the River and Into the Trees.'' It is, as he himself revealed, something that began as a story and went astray into the mangrove jungle of a novel. It is hard to understand so many structural cracks and so many errors of literary mechanics in such a wise technician - and dialogue so artificial, even contrived, in one of the most brilliant goldsmiths in the history of letters. When the book was published in 1950, the criticism was fierce but misguided. Hemingway felt wounded where he hurt most, and he defended himself from Havana, sending a passionate telegram that seemed undignified for an author of his stature. Not only was it his best novel, it was also his most personal, for he had written it at the dawn of an uncertain autumn, with nostalgia for the irretrievable years already lived and a poignant premonition of the few years he had left to live. In none of his books did he leave much of himself, nor did he find - with all the beauty and all the tenderness - a way to give form to the essential sentiment of his work and his life: the uselessness of victory. The death of his protagonist, ostensibly so peaceful and natural, was the disguised prefiguration of his own suicide.

When one lives for so long with a writer's work, and with such intensity and affection, one is left without a way of separating fiction from reality. I have spent many hours of many days reading in that cafe in the Place St. Michel that he considered good for writing because it seemed pleasant, warm, clean and friendly, and I have always hoped to find once again the girl he saw enter one wild, cold, blowing day, a girl who was very pretty and fresh-looking, with her hair cut diagonally across her face like a crow's wing. ''You belong to me and Paris belongs to me,'' he wrote for her, with that relentless power of appropriation that his writing had. Everything he described, every instant that was his, belongs to him forever. I can't pass by No. 12 Rue de l'Odeon in Paris without seeing him in conversation with Sylvia Beach, in a bookstore that is now no longer the same, killing time until e six in the evening, when James Joyce might happen to drop by. On the Kenya prairie, seeing them only once, he became the owner of his buffaloes and his lions, and of the most intimate secrets of hunting. He became the owner of bullfighters and prizefighters, of artists and gunmen who existed only for an instant while they became his. Italy, Spain, Cuba - half the world is filled with the places that he appropriated simply by mentioning them. In Cojimar, a little village near Havana where the solitary fisherman of ''The Old Man and the Sea'' lived, there is a plaque commemorating his heroic exploits, with a gilded bust of Hemingway. In Finca de la Vigia, his Cuban refuge, where he lived until shortly before his death, the house remains intact amid the shady trees, with his diverse collection of books, his hunting trophies, his writing lectern, his enormous dead man's shoes, the countless trinkets of life from all over the world that were his until his death, and that go on living without him, with the soul he gave them by the mere magic of his owning them.

Some years ago, I got into the car of Fidel Castro - who is a tenacious reader of literature -and on the seat I saw a small book bound in red leather. ''It's my master Hemingway,'' Fidel Castro told me. Really, Hemingway continues to be where one least expects to find him -20 years after his death - as enduring yet ephemeral as on that morning, perhaps in May, when he said ''Goodbye, amigo'' from across the Boulevard St. Michel.

This article was translated by Randolph Hogan of The Times cultural news staff.

http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/07/04/specials/hemingway-marquez.html

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Ash Cottage by Charlie Hedley



A film by Charlie Hedley  http://charliehedley.com/
Starring Paul Kelly

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Last night's set list

At The Habit, York, The Elderly Brothers: -

Love Hurts
Sea Of Heartbreak
Walk Right Back
Dead Flowers
Crying In The Rain
Bye Bye Love
You Got It

The Elderlys attended Joe Brown's excellent show at the Grand Opera House before heading for a busy Habit open mic session. As a tribute to Joe, Sea Of Heartbreak was added to the set. There were some talented new turns and host Mark Wynn closed proceedings with a superb Anji before a set of his trademark lyric-rich musical observations on contemporary and past times. A post show acoustic jam got folks singing along to songs such as I'll See You In My Dreams and There Stands The Glass. All in all a grand night!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Prefab Stout

A Life of Surprises indeed.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Jesse Winchester RIP


Jesse Winchester, Writer and Singer of Thoughtful Songs, Dies at 69

Jon Pareles
11 April 2014

esse Winchester, a honey-voiced singer who wrote thoughtful songs with deep Southern roots, died on Friday at his home in Charlottesville, Va. He was 69.

The cause was bladder cancer, said his manager and agent, Keith Case.

Mr. Winchester began writing songs in Canada, where he had moved in 1967 to avoid being drafted during the Vietnam War. He did not expect to return to the United States. Yet songs like “Biloxi,” “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz” and “Yankee Lady” on his debut album, “Jesse Winchester,” released in 1970, delved tenderly into memories of the South he had left behind.

“The Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” which Mr. Winchester said was the first song he wrote, was recorded by, among others, Joan Baez, the Everly Brothers, Anne Murray and Patti Page, who had a huge hit in 1950 with “The Tennessee Waltz.”

His songs were rooted in country, soul and gospel, and they strove to stay plain-spoken and succinct, whether he was singing wryly about everyday life or musing on philosophy and faith. In 1989 he told Musician magazine, “You can always find a way to say things in fewer words.”

James Ridout Winchester was born on May 17, 1944, in Bossier City, La., to James Ridout Winchester and the former Frances Manire. His father was stationed at Barksdale Field, an Army Air Corps base at the time. The family moved to a farm in Mississippi and later to Memphis. Mr. Winchester had 10 years of piano lessons, played organ in church and picked up guitar after hearing rockabilly, blues and gospel on Memphis radio.

He attended Williams College, where he majored in German, and enrolled for a year at the University of Munich, although he spent most of his time in Germany playing with a traveling rock band. Shortly after graduating from Williams, he received a draft notice and left for Montreal. “I didn’t see going to a war I didn’t believe was just, or dying for it,“ he said in an interview with No Depression magazine.

In Quebec he worked with bar bands and started playing the coffeehouse circuit, where he became a songwriter. “They expected you to write your own songs,” he told the online magazine Crawdaddy, “so I did.”

After a friend introduced him to Robbie Robertson of the Band, Mr. Winchester was signed by the Band’s manager, Albert Grossman. His debut album was produced by Mr. Robertson and received admiring reviews.

Sales were modest, partly because Mr. Winchester could not tour the United States to promote it. But “Yankee Lady” was a hit in Canada for Mr. Winchester, and later in the United States for Brewer & Shipley, and “Biloxi” became a staple of Jimmy Buffett’s repertoire.

Mr. Winchester released albums steadily through 1981 on Mr. Grossman’s label, Bearsville. The pensive, sparsely produced “Third Down, 110 to Go” — Canadian football has a 110-yard field — appeared in 1972; it included “Isn’t That So,” a bluesy song about God’s intentions and human temptations that was later recorded by Wilson Pickett. “Learn to Love It,” released in 1974, included “Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt,” a 1940s song Mr. Winchester updated to praise Canada; in it, he recalled himself in 1967, singing, “The call to bloody glory came and I would not raise my hand.” In 1976, Mr. Winchester released “Let the Rough Side Drag,” which pondered love, faith and commitment.

Three months after President Jimmy Carter issued an amnesty for draft evaders in January 1977, Mr. Winchester, who had become a Canadian citizen in 1973, played his first United States concerts in a decade. He was ambivalent about the newfound attention. “It doesn’t seem fair to turn your back on your country and then come back when the coast is clear and make money,” he told Rolling Stone in 1977.

With the amnesty, Mr. Winchester could record again in the United States, although he continued to live in Quebec. He worked in Nashville with Emmylou Harris’s longtime producer, Brian Ahern, on “Nothing but a Breeze“ (1977); with another leading country producer, Norbert Putnam, on “A Touch on the Rainy Side“ (1978); and in Memphis with Al Green’s producer, Willie Mitchell, on “Talk Memphis” (1981).

Those albums gave Mr. Winchester his first presence on the American country and pop singles charts, but sales remained low, and longtime fans missed the sorrowful undertow of his earlier songs.

“Talk Memphis” was Mr. Winchester’s last major-label album. He would record infrequently through the following decades, though he continued to tour and write. He built a home studio, and royalties supported him as his songs appeared on albums by Wynonna Judd, Reba McEntire, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffett and many others.

“I took stock and thought, ‘The only thing making money for me in this business is songwriting,’ ” he told one interviewer. “I don’t make any from records, and what little I did make from performing wasn’t usually worth the aggravation.” But in later years, he grew happier with performing, and he continued to tour into 2014.

Mr. Winchester made two country-pop albums for the Sugar Hill label, “Humour Me” in 1988 and “Gentleman of Leisure” in 1999.

In 2002 he married Cindy Duffy and moved back to the United States, settling in Charlottesville. He credited her “nagging” with getting him to record his last album, the 1950s-flavored “Love Filling Station” (Appleseed), in 2009. He had recently completed another album, “A Reasonable Amount of Trouble.”

Mr. Winchester’s first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to Ms. Duffy, survivors include a daughter, Alice Winchester; two sons, James and Marcus Lee Winchester; a stepdaughter, Jennifer Slangerup; three grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; a brother, Cassius; and a sister, Ellyn Weeks.

He learned he had esophageal cancer in 2011 and canceled a tour, but after surgery, he was pronounced cancer-free and returned to performing. In February of this year, he was found to have bladder cancer.

A 2012 tribute album, “Quiet About It,” included performances of his songs by Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett, James Taylor, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash, Lucinda Williams and Allen Toussaint.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/arts/music/jesse-winchester-singer-songwriter-dies-at-69.html?_r=0

Thursday, 10 April 2014

This week's set lists

Tuesday night at The Centurion, Newcastle upon Tyne: -

Till There Was You
Flying On The Ground Is Wrong
And I Love Her
Out Of The Blue (new song)
Laurel Canyon Home
One More Time
Don't Cry No Tears
I'll Follow The Sun
I Believe In You

A very thin crowd, including one other FNB, were treated to a range of musical styles during the Tuesday open mic night. The house band joined in on John Mayall's Laurel Canyon Home.

Wednesday night at The Habit, York - The Elderly Brothers: -

Dead Flowers
So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)
Light My Fire
When Will I Be Loved
Cathy's Clown
Surfin' USA

The usual players were supplemented by 4 or 5 newcomers who had made the trip from Bridlington. Entertainment was guaranteed with the excellent Tony Jawando and the duet Completely Bananas. The Elderlys introduced a 'new' song to their repertoire - Light My Fire.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Lorenzo Semple JR RIP

Lorenzo Semple obituary
Screenwriter highly regarded for his film work but best known for the hit 60s TV series Batman

Ronald Bergan
The Guardian
Wednesday 2 April 2014

There is a certain wry absurdity in the fact that the respected screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr, who has died aged 91, should be associated, above all, with onomatopoeic exclamations such as "POW!", "WHAM!", "CRR-ASH!" and "ARRGH!". These on-screen graphics, describing the action in Batman, the hit TV series that ran from 1966 to 1968, were an essential element of the campy, tongue-in-cheek satiric tone created by Semple, who was inspired by the more serious Batman comic books, first published in the 1940s.

In fact, Semple, who was story and script consultant on all 120 episodes, wrote only the first four teleplays, though his contributions to the adventures of Batman ("the Caped Crusader") and his adolescent sidekick Robin ("the Boy Wonder") – played in an amusingly straight-faced way by Adam West and Burt Ward – included such catchphrases as "Come on, Robin, to the Bat Cave! There's not a moment to lose!" and Robin's terse exclamations, "Holy crackup!", "Holy Titanic!", "Holy camouflage!" and "Holy happenstance!"

Despite having co-written two of the best conspiracy movies of the 1970s – The Parallax View (1974) and Three Days of the Condor (1975) – Semple believed that "Batman was the best thing I ever wrote, including those big movies. As a whole work, it came out the way that I wanted it to and I was excited by it."

Lorenzo was born into a wealthy family in Mount Kisco, Westchester county, New York, and was keen to become a playwright like his uncle Philip (The Philadelphia Story) Barry. However, he first served in the second world war as an ambulance driver for the Free French forces in the Libyan desert, for which he earned a Croix de Guerre, and then with the American army, which awarded him a bronze star.

After the war, Semple wrote short stories for the Saturday Evening Post and Collier's, and had two plays produced on Broadway, Tonight in Samarkand (1955) and Golden Fleecing (1959). Neither was a success, but the latter was picked up by MGM, retitled The Honeymoon Machine (1961), and made into a strained cold-war comedy starring Steve McQueen as a naval lieutenant who uses his ship's computer to break the bank at a casino in Venice.

Semple started writing regularly for television in 1958, culminating with Batman. He also wrote the screenplay for the feature film spin-off, which was released in 1966. The film, directed by Leslie H Martinson, had four villains: Catwoman (Lee Meriwether), the Joker (Cesar Romero), the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), causing Commissioner Gordon to declare: "A thought strikes me ... so dreadful I scarcely dare give it utterance ..." "The four of them ... their forces combined ..." Batman interjects. "Holy nightmare!" Robin chimes in.

Semple then decided to concentrate almost entirely on writing for the big screen, although he always had a low opinion of screenwriting, which he considered a craft rather than an art. He and Martinson teamed up again for Fathom (1967), one of many 1960s James Bond spoofs, this one starring Raquel Welch in the title role. (She is repeatedly asked how she got her name, each time providing a different answer.)

Directed by Noel Black, Pretty Poison (1968), for which Semple's screenplay won the New York Film Critics Circle prize, was an early example of a movie with ecological concerns. The bizarre black comedy starred Anthony Perkins as a disturbed young man who, convinced that the chemical plant where he works is polluting the river in his town with a "diabolical substance", enlists the help of his psychopathic girlfriend (Tuesday Weld) to destroy the polluting factory. Although the film remained pretty poisonous at the box office, it gathered a well-deserved following over the years.

After five writers' scripts had been discarded by the director Franklin J Schaffner on Papillon (1973), based on the former Devil's Island convict Henri Charrière's semi-autobiographical bestseller, Semple was brought in to write a role for Dustin Hoffman that was not in the book. He spent six weeks writing three quick drafts to create the wimpish, thickly bespectacled Louis Dega, a friend for Steve McQueen's character in line with the trend for "buddy" movies.

Another 70s trend was the conspiracy thriller, which explored the dark underside of America in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate. This gave Semple a chance to get a screenwriting credit on Alan J Pakula's political thriller The Parallax View, an extremely disturbing no-holds-barred look at an assassination cover-up with a downbeat ending, and on Sydney Pollack's Three Days of the Condor, which creates an atmosphere of paranoia as Robert Redford, a lowly analyst, tries to reveal dirty dealings in the CIA.

Among the less distinguished efforts in which Semple was involved were two remakes: the heavy, charmless King Kong (1976) – "Put me down, you goddamn chauvinist pig ape!" says Jessica Lange – and Hurricane (1979), a multimillion-dollar flop, which might have been better if Roman Polanski's personal difficulties had not forced him to give up the project and flee the US.

Semple was then back to comic-book land with Flash Gordon (1980) and Sheena (1984), both eliciting intentional and unintentional easy laughs. But before Semple could say "Holy Sean Connery!", he was asked to write the screenplay for Never Say Never Again (1983). After a 12-year hiatus, the original James Bond returned to the role for the last time in this retread of Thunderball (1965) in which Bond is asked: "Now that you're on this, I hope that we're going to have some gratuitous sex and violence?" Semple does an adequate job in supplying it.

He is survived by his wife, Joyce, two daughters, Johanna and Maria, the latter also a writer, and a son, Lorenzo.

Stephen Weeks writes: Lorenzo Semple was an original – a man with deeply held beliefs and a passion for justice, but delicately wrapped in a delightful, mischievous veneer of humour. He broke off the comfort of his education at Yale after his fresher year to drive ambulances in north Africa before the US had entered the second world war. After it, he continued his studies and graduated from Columbia University, New York. Yale was from his comfortable youth, and he was keen to embrace the future – and to establish himself as a man with something to say.

He loved technology: in the late 1970s he equipped the house he'd had built in Aspen, Colorado, with a computer that turned on lights and in the morning drew blinds and opened windows, automatically, wishing him "Good morning" while it was at it. In 1985, he lugged his steel-cased "portable" to my 12th-century house in Wales to work on a script with me, and he was the first person I knew who had email. This fascination went way back: the plot of his 1961 movie The Honeymoon Machine demonstrates the early fun and even the malicious potential of computers, which stood him in good stead when he came to Batman later.

Lorenzo's last trip to Europe was in 2008, as a guest of honour of the Karlovy Vary film festival. The film he chose to represent his work was Pretty Poison, whose whole attitude towards small-town, white picket-fence life pre-dates David Lynch by two decades. It proved as disturbingly shocking as it had been when first released

• Lorenzo Semple, screenwriter, born 27 March 1923; died 28 March 2014

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/apr/02/lorenzo-semple