KINDA HOT: A book about Saint Jack

Info, news and a kind of diary covering the publication of a book about the making of the film Saint Jack in Singapore...

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Location: Bedok, The East, Singapore

Author, Lecturer, Screenwriter, Film Critic & Historian... Email me!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

easy does it

Scored a very nice write-up from Wiley Wiggins, who recommends reading Kinda Hot after Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Pete Biskind's highly entertaining muck-rake through 70s Hollywood. Biskind's hi-energy style was an influence on my writing, but I made sure I never mentioned the book to Bogdanovich who totally hates it! I did tell him about Julie Salmon's wonderful The Devil's Candy, on the making of Brian De Palma's Bonfire Of The Vanities, which he'd suprisingly not heard of. Anyway, cheers Wiley!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Not sure how long it will last, but I'm posting over at harrylimetheme again.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

the accountant is coming

(An ad for my book designed by Yuen Chee Wai, using a wicked shot of the Saint Jack crew in serious downtime mode taken by Pat Jackson. Look carefully and you can see Ben Gazzara and Robby Mueller, among others. I love this picture, but we couldn't use it in the book because its too fuzzy and indistinct.)

Just got back from Tokyo, a city of beautifully designed dreams... hence, a slowdown on blog action from me. Truth is I've been rather down lately about the book. Local sales have slowed down to a snails pace, and I can't bare to go into bookshops anymore. Kinda Hot is either not there at all (in one major bookstore which claims it has an abundance of copies, it is impossible to find), or displayed very poorly. Because I'm S for Slater, I tend to get shoved down to a lower shelf of the 'Local Interest' section, and the flashy cover that we spent so long agonising about rarely gets a chance to show itself off to passing consumers. Maybe we should have spent more time thinking about the spine...

My Amazon sales rank yesterday was #696,452, which apparently means I've so far sold 20 copies online. This is actually pretty cool, because it means international readers of Greencine, IFCBlog and possibly these very pages, have made those moves.

Although I'll continue to do what I can with promoting the book, I think I have to accept I can't worry about its presence (or non-presence) in every single bookstore. Gotta let it go.

But I didn't want to just post a lot of pathetic self-pitying guff today. Instead I'd like to swing this around and share with you some of the positive stuff people have been saying about Kinda Hot.

I got a handwritten letter from George Morfogen last week, he's in the photo above standing with his arm outstretched at the back of the group. George's handwriting is very dense, but he wrote that "the different memories of events make for an accurate reflection of the climate of those months of production. Your essay and critique of Saint Jack was the high point for me..."

Charles Longbottom, the expat film buff who found himself with a key role in the film's red-light district scenes, took the book on holiday to France (it does make for a fine vacation read), and emailed me on his return: "I think you've done a fine job, Ben, capturing well the filming of a bygone era." Although he thinks I downplayed Bogdanovich's arrogance. Personally, I think I leave it for the reader to make their own judgements.

His fellow expat actor/crew member Sally Tunnicliffe had this to say to me: "I very much enjoyed the book. It took me right back to an amazing time. You certainly did some thorough research and simply getting in touch with so many people must have been a huge undertaking. I also learnt a lot that I didn't know at the time."

Louise Walker, the costume supervisor and a great interviewee mailed me a succinct: "really wonderful and well done".

Pierre Cottrell, the production chief, whose testimonies really blew apart many of my preconceived notions about the shoot, was someone who I felt may not like the book. But he sent a quick congratulatory email, under the title 'Bon Mots'. I know he reads this blog once in a while, so I look forward to hearing your reactions in full Pierre.

Singaporeans have also sent me some feedback. This was from Ming Wong, an artist who is based in London. "I loved the way the book meshes together film-making, film history, guerilla filmmaking guide, travel guide, social/political history book of that special dot in the ocean called Singapore (especially timely, now with talk of the local 'film industry' again), nostalgia trip..." And this from Kok Meng, an architect, which was forwarded to me by a mutual friend: "Couldn't put the book down once I got started on the plane. Delicious names and places. A Singapore I loved."

Thanks to all of those who have written to me (or about me), the book took a long time to create and so I really appreciate the comments.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Cinema Singapore and other titles...

(Fragment from article in the Singapore newspaper TODAY)

The daily newspaper TODAY has a big feature about why foreigners are so curious about Singapore movies, which has a few soundbites from me - you can read it here, or have the pdf here. But the main peg of the article is the publication of my compadre Raphael Millet's splendid account of Singapore's cinematic history, aptly titled Singapore Cinema. Raphael has done a great job of tracking down rare stills, which have been beautifully reproduced by his publisher, and in a highly readable text he gives probably the most detailed and exhaustive chronology of Singapore films and filmmakers in existence. Local readers should start seeing it around soon, and you lot overseas can buy it online here.

Meanwhile, I did my little reading last night at the library, which was fun. Thanks again to Shu Hoong for inviting me. The independent event, which obviously has a regular following, seems to have been co-opted by various library bureaucrats to help launch a multi-lingual reading campaign - so that was a little weird. Especially since they had a camera crew videoing every move we made. But it was a good crowd and people were very friendly...

I'm still surprised how few people have heard of Saint Jack, even after all the publicity its had since March through my book, the unbanning and Paul Theroux's visit. It makes me realise that in terms of publicity - there's a lot of work to do.