This week I completed my first interview by Skype about my book The World of Shaft with James P Stancil of the New Books Network. James was a very gracious host. The podcast is now available to listen to by clicking the link below:
It was announced today that Shaft: Imitation of Life has been nominated for the 2017 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity. Written by David F. Walker with art work by Dietrich Smith and featuring the eponymous black hero, the comic also tackled issues of the exploitation of homosexual males in early 1970s New York. The comic followed Walker’s Shaft: A Complicated Man, which was nominated for the same award in 2015.
The Italian translation is by Ettore Capriolo and the book (ISBN: 978-88-6998-052-7) is now on sale at a price of € 15.00.
SUR’s website also contains a link to a pdf extract from the novel.
After over a year of seeming inactivity, there is finally some forward momentum on New Line’s reboot of the Shaft franchise. Tim Story has been assigned as director to the production, which will be based on a script by Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow. Barris is also co-producer with John Davis and Ira Napoliello for Davis Entertainment. As well as directing two Fantastic Four movies, Story has had recent success as a director of comedies including Ride Along 2 and Kevin Hart: What Now? – adding fuel to the fire that this Shaft may be less than faithful to Ernest Tidyman’s creation.
Mike Fleming Jr., writing for Deadline , reports on rumours that the plot may centre on Shaft’s son – thereby taking a similar track to 2000’s Shaft, where Samuel L Jackson played the private detective’s nephew. He says: “I’ve heard the idea is to reinvigorate the franchise with a focus on the son of the cool private eye who always finds himself navigating the gray terrain between the law and organized crime in New York City.”
In a year that has seen the loss of so many icons I had missed the death of Joseph Mascolo on 8 December 2016. Mascolo, who brought a sense of charisma and style to his portrayal of Gus Mascola in Shaft’s Big Score! Mascolo (born 13 March 1929) was of Italian descent, his parents having emigrated from Naples. He studied acting under Stella Adler and was also a trained classical musician – he would famously use his clarinet skills to flesh out his portrayal for Gus Mascola. He had worked his way through TV and theatre from the late 1950s. He was a regular on TV through to the late 1980s and is probably best remembered for his portrayal of soap villain Stefano DiMera from 1982 to 2016 on NBC’s Days of Our Lives. In the last couple of years he had experienced deteriorating health, having suffered a stroke in 2015 and battling Alzheimer’s disease, from which he eventually died. He is survived by his wife, Patricia Schultz-Mascolo, his son Peter, his step-daughter Laura, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
First off, Season’s Greetings to all who happen upon my website.
I have given the site a makeover for 2017, having decided to road test Word Press’ new template. Also, in my Guide to Shaft I have added visual title headers to each book and movie entry along with some new images.
Through 2017, I will continue with reviews of movies and books as well as updates on all things Shaft. I am currently working on a novel and have some ideas for more short stories and further novels to explore. I have contributed a chapter to a forthcoming book on 1970s pulp fiction. I am also looking to start further research for a book about the making of the first Shaft movie, for which I aim to seek publication in 2021 to tie in with the 50th anniversary of the film’s release.
For now, I hope you all have a happy and prosperous 2017.
Last year saw the long-awaited return to the printed page of John Shaft in the form of David F. Walker’s 6-part comic book prequel to the Ernest Tidyman novels, Shaft: A Complicated Man. The book was a superb re-introduction of the character in a story which added depth to Tidyman’s creation and was loaded with late 1960s New York atmosphere, enhanced by Bilquis Evely’s evocative art work. There was the promise of more to come from Dynamite Entertainment and in 2016 Dynamite delivered more.
Shaft’s Revenge, also penned by David F. Walker, was published on 10 February (having been serialised the previous year via a QR download to smart phones) and was the first prose novel to feature the character since Tidyman’s The Last Shaft (1975). Walker deftly slotted this into Shaft’s timeline some time between Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) and Shaft Has a Ball (1973). He took Tidyman’s character outline and expanded on Shaft’s history as well as introduced a memorable new gangster in the offbeat form of Linwood “Red Linny” Morton. The story stayed true to Tidyman’s prose style, whilst again adding depth to Shaft’s character and Walker left room for further adventures. Jeff Kingston Pierce commented in his year end round-up at Kirkus that “David F. Walker does an estimable job of capturing Tidyman’s third-person style, and there’s plenty of sex and violence to be had in these pages…which is exactly what any Shaft fan would expect.”
February also saw the beginning of a four-part run of Walker’s follow-up comic book, Shaft: Imitation of Life. This second run took a different approach both in story and visually, with Dietrich Smith providing more colourful and gritty, if less stylised, art work. Whereas in A Complicated Man, Shaft had been drawn true to Tidyman’s vision of his character, in Imitation of Life pressure from Dynamite made sure Shaft took on the image of his movie persona as portrayed by Richard Roundtree. The story was less successful, introducing elements of self-reference and satire that are intended as pointed criticisms of the approach supposedly to be taken in New Line’s planned reboot of the movie franchise that Walker had taken exception to. Still, there were enough strong moments to satisfy fans of the first comic book. The issues ran through to 25 May and a trade paperback version is set to be published in February 2017.
In its press release in May 2014, Dynamite had promised to republish all seven of Tidyman’s original novels. 2016 saw them begin this process and Shaft (1970) was duly published on 20 July with cover art by Robert Hack. Whilst I had issues with the text format (indents too deep, for example), it was great to see a Tidyman original back in print. The books also contained a preview for Shaft Among the Jews (1972), which promised a swift follow-up. There was also an Italian publication of the novel.
Sadly, apart from the trade paperback publication of Shaft: Imitation of Life, there is no further news on future Shaft releases via Dynamite at this point. The comic book and novel sales have not been spectacular and this may cause Dynamite to re-evaluate their strategy. It is to be hoped we will see more from Walker as he has a real feel for the character and I know he has more Shaft stories he wants to tell. In the meantime, I am optimistic Dynamite will at least deliver on their promise and complete the reprint of the originals.
As for the proposed movie re-boot. There has been no further news on development since New Line’s response to fan (and in particular Walker’s) criticism of their proposed, more “comedic”, take on the character in August 2015 when producer John Davis stated, “It’s a reinvention of the story so that it’s both fresh and harkens back to what we love about that character. It’s drama, but it’s going to be drama with a lot of fun moments. A lot of lighter moments.” The movie seems to be stuck in development hell. Some may see this as a good thing and an indication that a re-think may be in order. In my view, New Line would be best advised to adapt Walker’s Shaft: A Complicated Man as this is a superb re-introduction of the character that would make a great movie.
Dynamite are now trailing the trade paperback release of Shaft: Imitation of Life, due out on 21 February 2017. The cover art is the same as for issue 1 of the original 4-part run.
The fascinating life of multi-talented singer and actor Cy Grant (who played the Emir in Shaft in Africa) is celebrated in a touring exhibition until November 30th at the Marcus Garvey Library, Tottenham Green Leisure Centre, 1 Philip Lane, London N15 4JA. Admission is free. Grant’s life is a fascinating story of drive and perseverance.
Shaft in Africa (1973; USA; Metrocolor; 112m) ∗∗∗½ d. John Guillermin; w. Stirling Silliphant; ph. Marcel Grignon; m. Johnny Pate. Cast: Richard Roundtree, Frank Finlay, Vonetta McGee, Neda Arneric, Debebe Eshetu, Spiros Focás, Jacques Herlin, Jho Jhenkins, Glynn Edwards, Cy Grant, Jacques Marin. P.I. John Shaft is recruited to go undercover to break up a modern slavery ring where young Africans are lured to Paris to do chain-gang work. Whilst the producers try to turn Shaft into a black James Bond, this still remains an enjoyable action thriller. Roundtree has considerable charisma and the plot concerning people trafficking is still topical. Followed by a TV series (1973-4) and then SHAFT (2000).