1920s, authors, books, culture, In My Opinion, movies, writing

POV in Books and Films

Why are books often better than the film? Character driven stories adapted to the screen rarely capture the languid, interconnected weaving of words. The point of view depicted in books and films have become more important to me, affecting my patience and enjoyment of them. For example, I struggle to sit through an epic film or read a book of epic proportion. Omniscient point of view is grand in style, but I’m swimming among the characters in the riptide. Once I could appreciate Victorian tangents and Dostoevskian explanations and wrap my mind around the subplots and forgive the overuse of flashbacks. But now I grow disillusioned. Even authors I hold in high esteem like John Irving frustrate me. He describes the life story of every character that wanders on to the page. Yes, I adore his craftsmanship and his ability to create bizarre, unique characters and a setting that’s tangible, but I will put the book down if the plot is shelved for the sake of description. I hear the words a great friend and teacher who once said about description, “Yes, but, where’s the story? Get back to the story!” For me, the key to a great book or film is a balanced mixture of plot and complex characters who are inspiring, flawed, and heroic.

1994, peculiar, 680 pg. of descriptions
1994, peculiar, 680 pg. of descriptions

I’ve been trying to get through A Son of the Circus by John  Irving. Where is the plot? Irving’s characters experience events and realize life’s truths. A Prayer for Owen Meany is such a book containing the themes of friendship and love. It’s a beautiful story and my favorite. Cider House Rules is a great book, too. Although John Irving won Best Adapted Screenplay in 1999, Irving’s movie was not nearly as satisfying as his novel. What did you think of the book and film that catapulted Irving’s career, The World According to Garp? Check out his books and life HERE E.L. Doctorow

Doctorow is another great author whose POV disengages me. Let’s talk about Ragtime. As a historical fiction classic, he chooses to add real celebrities from circa 1910 and place them among fictional characters. Doctorow uses third person omniscient point of view and the plot moves around each chapter from one story to the next, and I find the leaping around, typical in epic tales, annoying. Another criticism I have is his fragmented sentence structure and little deviation with character’s attitudes or personality. I had high expectations for this novel; it has been  tagged as the definitive voice of Americana at the beginning of the 20th Century. It is daring to include famous people into a fictional novel. Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, and Emma Goldman, are strikingly different personalities; yet, it’s the voice of Doctorow as narrator we hear. I crave to be in their heads and listen to them speak. This is an important concept to me in writing.

It’s ironic to me that omniscient point of view is wide open and encapsulates several characters, yet begets a lack of intimacy. An over-use of description from an omnicient narrator can dissuade me to finish a novel. Irving and Doctorow are highly esteemed writers and my criticisms are irrelevant in the big scheme of things. For the record, I’d be thrilled to meet these masters and discuss the pros and cons to omniscient point of view. Still, Ruth at  Ruth’s Flixchatter raised a question in a recent post–Don’t you hate it when everyone loves a film and it leaves you cold?–you can add books to that discussion, too. What about you? Which authors are critically acclaimed yet their style leaves you cold? Any book adaptations you feel transferred to the screen well? I’m wondering if the rapidity of time because of our technological marvels haven’t weakened my ability to concentrate for long periods of time.

1920s, culture, history, Inside the Gold Plated Pistol, writing

Emeralds: fiction and non-fiction


Oh, my young and stupid years. When I turned 18 and enlisted in the Navy, I was sent to San Diego, CA for “A” school which back in 1981 meant I learned how to type on a teletypewriter and set up ship-shore communications. I was there for five months and during the course of my stay was courted by a sailor who claimed how wealthy he was and told me fantastic stories about his separated British mom and American father. There was a manorial state in England somewhere, a London school he attended, his chummy butler, and his California father who was a very important but angry man. As an anglophile and thespian, I found his stories entertaining to listen to, but I didn’t believe him for a minute. After all, why would he choose to be a lowly E-1 Seaman Recruit? Why not be an officer if he had a proper London education? If he had a proper London education, why was he in the U.S. Navy walking around the dusty path of Balboa Park with me? Randall told me he enlisted to escape his father.

When we left the base on leave, he would rent a car and take me to Balboa Park or out to dinner. (Remind me to tell you about the time on Halloween night underneath a full moon, we were robbed at gunpoint.) One afternoon, we strolled downtown San Diego and entered an upscale jewelry store. The display case was long with gems within elaborate settings. He said, “Which one do you like best?” I looked over the sapphires and rubies and pearls and went to the emeralds. There was a cocktail ring that reminded me of hill. It contained emeralds and diamonds stacked on top of each other, rising high like a mound found on a corner of the Emerald City. “This one,” I answered, breathless. The price tag: $3,500.00.


Christmas arrived and Randall collected me at my barracks and we went for a walk, and he presented me a Christmas gift–the emerald cocktail ring. Incredulous!

He asked me to marry him and told me he was gay. He had to hide this fact from his father, so he hoped I’d agree to be his cover. I’d have my set of apartments, I’d want for nothing, and we’d be best friends. I responded the way any romantic would say; I wanted to marry for love, not money. Sigh.

Well, a few days later, I saw him getting out of a black limousine. He was wearing the insignia of ensign. He was suspiciously an officer! What had his father done? We graduated. I got orders to Scotland. Randall got orders to Rome. The ring? Six months later, drunk at a party, the ring slipped off my finger and disappeared down the toilet. I saw neither Randall or the emerald ring again.


Inside the Gold Plated Pistol, the first draft is progressing. Up in Jerome, Arizona, it’s 1927 and my taxi-dancer, Sally, is dancing away to the tunes of Hoagie Carmichael, “Stardust” and Jack Smith “Me and my Shadow”. Did you miss my recent post about nickel-hoppers and Barbara Stanwyck? Here it is

Now enters another character, Sally’s mother, Connie Vandenberg, a wealthy woman whose father amassed a fortune mining copper and silver in Arizona. While some women collect spoons and china tea cups, Connie collects unusual weapons, strange artifacts, and paintings.

Can you guess what Connie’s favorite jewel is? Emeralds, of course. This means I have had to research what the mining industry was like in 1920s and specifically, the fascinating world of Gemology.


In 1920, Fritz Klein, discovered the “Patricia Emerald” from the Chivor Emerald Mine on short-term lease from the Colombian Government and named it for his daughter. He gave it to the New York Museum of Natural History in 1921 as a gift, and I think I’ll have Connie go and visit it. Why not rub shoulders with Fritz since he knew her father? There’s the fun in creating fiction. Why not? The challenge is making the incredulous seem perfectly normal.


Connie’s passion is emeralds. Should she go to Columbia to acquire some? She could go a shorter distance to the emerald minds in North Carolina. Did you know there were emeralds in North Carolina? I found the Hiddenite Gems, Inc. site which claims it’s the only open-to-the-public mine where you can sluice or dig for over sixty gems. Next time in North Carolina, wouldn’t it be fun to pan for emeralds?  NC Emerald Mine


How are emeralds rated? Where are they? Are they valuable? I checked out the GIA, Gemological Institute of America Inc.  It’s fascinating. Since emeralds are mined in Columbia, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, and India, I pray the story for extracting emeralds isn’t the same story told in the film Blood Diamonds.  GIA Emeralds

For now, I’m having fun exploring the world of emeralds and contemplating whether I should relive my history through Sally or Connie. Should they “lose” their emerald cocktail ring in a most ignoble way or can I fix my past and have them produce it thirty years after the fact?

actors, culture, history, Inside the Gold Plated Pistol, movies, Research, Uncategorized, writing

1927: Hollywood, Magazines, Dreamers

Researching Hollywood, Jerome AZ, and Chicago is as fun as creating fictional characters and inserting them into the culture of 1927. Two principal characters are girl friends–one is a Hopi Indian while the other a vaudeville performer. The other two characters are a killer and an heiress of a copper mining magnate. If you enjoy the history of the motion picture industry, the wild west, and abnormal psychology, join me as I share my research of the Roaring Twenties in America.

As I’m writing the first draft to Inside the Gold Plated Pistol, Sally shares her passion for the stars of Hollywood with her new Hopi friend, Mary Kay. Fleshing out magazine covers and film posters from 1927 reveals a lot about the culture such as what America valued, and the old magazine covers are beautiful. The vamp and the flapper, she’s-got-“it” star Clara Bow, Greta Garbo, Douglas Fairbanks, and John Barrymore are inspirations behind my characters. Certainly, as Sally dreams of becoming a movie star, or copying the trends in fashion, I’ll have her pick up issues from Cosmopolitan.

Other popular magazine covers from 1927 remind me what was in vogue. The Roaring 20s was a special time for women to break boundaries and demand their independence. Innovation, music, movies, art, extravagance, and exuberance commanded the decade. It’s these elements I want to incorporate into the novel.

What Sally doesn’t read, other characters will discuss some articles from Vanity Fair and Time and McCall’s and The New Yorker.

Enraptured by the modern world, Sally laments she is stuck in the wild, copper mining town of Jerome, Arizona. If only she could make that next leap from Vaudeville to the motion pictures. Sally shows Mary Kay the world behind the curtain of the Liberty Theater, a museum now, in Jerome, Arizona. I’ll share some pictures and the story behind the movie house soon.