Friday, September 14, 2018

Frances Langford Finally Receives Her Due

To date there has never been a biography about Frances Langford in print form, which makes Ben Ohmart's latest contribution to the reference library all the more valuable. She really was the Sweetheart of the Armed Forces, once quoted of saying "God knows I would gladly give my life to help end this terrible affair and send those boys home to their families and friends where they belong." With her vocal talents as both movie star and radio personality, her career has been immortalized in recorded form. Her personal life restricted to the tabloids and gossip columns of the times, she donated everything she owned -- including letters, scrapbooks and photographs to the Martin County Historical Society in Minnesota. Anyone can visit the Elliott Museum and browse through her collection, but Ben Ohmart saved us an expensive trip across the country with this 333-page book documenting her personal life, her radio career, her screen career and more than any other aspect of her career... what she devoted to troops overseas. 

"Frances cared a lot about her war work," Ohmart explains, "and more than anything, I wanted this book to showcase her amazing patriotism." Chapter three focuses on her tour with Bob Hope for the U.S.O. 

I could go on paragraph after paragraph of what this book contains but if you are seeking a biography that covers all aspects of her life and career, this is the book. The most impressive aspect is the fact that this book features hundreds of never-before-seen photographs from Langford's personal collection and are a rare treat. Most biographies have a handful of rare photographs, sometimes as a centerpiece in the middle of a book. Ben Ohmart gave us not just a slice of the pie, but multiple pies of various flavors. The photos alone are worth the price of this book.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Forever and a Day: The Origin of James Bond

"There is only one recipe for a best seller. You have to get the reader to turn over the page."
-- Ian Fleming

It is not every day that I receive an advance copy of a novel to be published months from now and I have to confess both my sincere appreciation and excitement when I discovered it was a James Bond novel. Not just any novel, but the official prequel to Casino Royale (1953), which provides an origin for James Bond.

Casino Royale was a magnificent read. The prose was fantastic and the story simplistic. Establishing the world of spies and international intrigue the novel described celebrated world cities, beautiful women and his motif for working with them, being captured by the villain, enjoying upscale brands, and a muted violent streak that verges on cruelty. Subsequent novels were enjoyable, but nowhere near the caliber of Casino Royale. In fact, if you are going to read any other Ian Fleming novels, I recommend his third, Moonraker (1955), simply because so many elements in that novel crept into the cinema formula of the Bond movies.

Other authors took over the mantle after the passing of Ian Fleming and dozens and dozens of Bond novels have been published over the past few decades. Of recent, Anthony Horowitz took on the task and with credits to his name (the Alex Rider novels and teleplays for Poirot, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid) it was a surefire success. His first, Trigger Mortis is enjoyable and one can hear the John Barry 007 theme numerous times during action sequences. His second, due for publication in November, is Forever and a Day.


In this new entry, James Bond has just been promoted to 00 status and is sent to the Riviera (and environs, particularly Marseille) to discover who killed his predecessor and why. There he meets with a woman who may or may not be on the side of the angels, an American industrialist making film stock for Hollywood and a grotesquely fat Corsican syndicate head who deals in drugs and could be straight out of Dick Tracy’s gallery of villains. He also encounters a CIA operative who appears to be a reliable good guy. Throw in some car chases, some great food and drink and you have a classic Bond thriller.

If you do not want to wait until November, you can purchase a copy of the book from England because it was released commercially overseas back in May. But if you are seeking adventure and escapism this holiday season, treat yourself and order a copy of this book.