Marta Tandori » Marta Tandori The Official Website Thu, 02 Jul 2015 20:11:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 THAT’S HOLLYWOOD: JURASSIC BLOCKBUSTERS AND BOMBS Thu, 02 Jul 2015 20:11:28 +0000 _jurassic_world_trailerBack in the Golden Age of Hollywood, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (a.k.a. “MGM”) was once the most glamorous of film studios, run with an iron fist by its co-founder, Louis B. Mayer.  Today’s film studios are media conglomerates ruthlessly driven by profits and a bottom line – usually by a group of executives halfway across the country, if not halfway around the world.  And despite today’s growing trend for film stars to command hefty salaries as well as a percentage of the film’s profits, having a big name fronting a movie doesn’t necessarily guarantee box office gold.  In the last of this four-part series, we examine the two ‘B’ words that drive today’s movie studios, the blockbusters and their embarrassing second cousin, the box office bombs.

It was around Louis B. Mayer’s time that the term ‘blockbuster’ came into use by the American media – but in a very different context – referring to aerial bombs capable of destroying a whole block of streets during the Second World War.  It was only later that ‘blockbuster’ began to be used in reference to successful theater plays, hit movies and bestselling novels.  Some of the blockbusters of this era included classics like Gone with the Wind (1939) starring Vivienne Leigh and Clark Gable, Quo Vadis (1951) starring Robert Taylor, the Ten Commandments (1956) and Ben-Hur (1959), both starring the venerable Charleton Heston (yesteryear’s superstar equivalent of Harrison Ford).  These were considered blockbusters, based purely on the amount of money earned at the box office, and by which all other movie successes were blockbustersmeasured – until the summer of 1975.  In 1975, Steven Spielberg’s classic, Jaws, hit movie theatres and became an overnight sensation.  The public perceived the movie as something new, something exciting – almost a cultural phenomenon.  People talked about Jaws long after it was over and many went back to see it over and over again, just for the thrill of it.  Exceeding a lofty one hundred million dollars in ticket sales, Jaws put the concept of the modern-day blockbuster on the map.

Although the term ‘blockbuster’ was originally defined by audience response, it eventually came to mean a high-budget production aimed at mass markets, with associated merchandising, on which the financial fortunes of film studios and distributors depended.  According to Box Office Mojo, the ten highest domestic grossing films of all time are as follows:  Fox’s Avatar (2009) with $760.5 million, Paramount’s Titanic (1997) with $658.7 million, Buena Vista’s Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) with $623.4 million, Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight (2008) with $534.9 million, Fox’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) with $474.5 million, Fox’s Star Wars (1977) with $461.0 million, Buena Vista’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) with $450.8, Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight Rises (2012) with $448.1 million, Universal’s Jurassic World (2015) with $445.8 million, Disney’s Shrek 2 (2004) with $441.2 million.143586747573977

Now let’s turn our attention to the blockbuster’s embarrassing second cousin, the box office bomb.  Box office bombs are movies that cost more to make than they acquire in revenue (both domestic and worldwide). Putting it bluntly, even if a movie makes as much as its production budget, it’s still a bomb since marketing costs haven’t been factored in nor have the theater owners’ share (movie studios split grosses with theater owners).  As such, a film often must make almost double its budget to become profitable. Most big box-office bombs are summer blockbusters which are enormously expensive and face stiff competition.  There are, of course, many reasons for a film to “bomb” at the box-office – the major causes are lack of studio promotion, heavy competition from other movies released at the same time, exorbitant productions costs difficult to recoup and other production problems, not to mention negative word of mouth (especially in his era of the Internet and social media).

You might wonder what all the fuss is about.  After all, you win some, you lose some, right?  That certainly seems to be the rationale in the case of an actor’s or director’s career when their films fail – just ask George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Brian DePalma, to name just a few.  Unfortunately however, the consequences of a major box office bomb in the case of a movie studio are much less forgiving, especially when you consider that Cutthroat Island (1995) starring Geena Davis or Heaven’s Gate (1980) starring Kris Kristofferson, both monumental stinkeroos, ended up brankrupting their studios.  Wonder what old Louis B. Mayer would have to say about that?


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THAT’S HOLLYWOOD: The Paparazzi…It’s Nothing Personal Tue, 16 Jun 2015 20:21:43 +0000 paparazziSome celebrities cherish and guard their privacy with a single-minded determination bordering on the obsessive with others believe that they gave up their rights to privacy once they became famous and accept this fact with resignation.  Whatever the celeb’s feelings on the subject of fame, rest assured, the paparazzi will be camped outside their homes, or they’ll be following them as they shop or vacation and sometimes, they’ll even get into shouting matches or the odd slugfest with them.  To some celebrities, the “papps”, as they are called, are the lowest of the low of bottom feeders while to others, they are there to be manipulated for greater visibility.  However, for the average paparazzo who hangs out of a helicopter hoping to get the money-shot of George Clooney’s wedding, it’s all in a day’s work – nothing personal against the celebs.  In the third of this four-part series, we examine the hated paparazzi and the vital role they play in feeding the public’s insatiable demand for Hollywood celebrity news.

The online reference source,, defines the paparazzi as independent photographers who take pictures of athletes, entertainers, royalty, politicians and other celebrities as they go about their daily lives.  Paparazzi tend to be independent contractors, unaffiliated with mainstream media organizations.  Some media experts have described their behavior as synonymous with stalking but the paparazzi’s argument is that their relationship with celebrities is symbiotic; the celebs need the paparazzi as much as the paparazzi need them.  There is certainly truth in that logic, to be sure.

tmzWhile today’s gossip poster child, Perez Hilton, was still eating strained veggies and his multi-gazillion-dollar-brainchild, TMZ, was yet to be conceptualized, the pages of the National Enquirer were what you surreptitiously devoured at your local supermarket checkout if you wanted all the latest dirt on your favorite celebs, especially if it was a double issue featuring celebs caught without their makeup or the uncensored – and sometimes cringe-worthy – photos of celebs hitting the beach in cellulite-laden, beer belly free-for-alls while busting out of string bikinis and animal-print Speedos.  Add now to the National Enquirer a slew of entertainment magazines like People, Us Weekly, InTouch, Hello and Okay who have pages that need to be filled with celeb photos, candid and otherwise, in order to meet public demand and you’ve got not only a public who needs their daily fix of celebrity news and photos but a horde of paparazzi who are more than willing to meet that demand.  Oh, and let’s not forget that with the advent of the World Wide Web, the demand for photos of celebs and royalty, not to mention sports stars behaving badly and high-profile politicians with questionable personal morals has grown ten-fold. Ron-Galella-006

Arguably one of the most famous paparazzo of all time is Ron Galella.  Dubbed “Paparazzo Extraordinaire” by Newsweek and “the Godfather of the U.S. paparazzi culture” by Time magazine and Vanity Fair, he is regarded by Harper’s Bazaar as the most controversial paparazzo of all time, gaining notoriety with his feuds with some celebrities like former first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis a.k.a. Jackie O., and movie godfather, Marlon Brando.  Jackie O. sued Galella twice while Marlon Brando broke his jaw.  However, these weren’t Galella’s only run in with the celebrities he was documenting.  He was once beaten by actor Richard Burton’s security guards, losing one tooth.  Other famous targets were Elvis Presley, whose bodyguards slashed Galella’s car tires, Brigitte Bardot, who had her security staff hose him down, and Sean Penn, who spat at him and allegedly punched him while being photographed with his then-wife, Madonna.

“The paparazzi are just the easiest ones to demonize because people think of us all as scrummy human beings.  You never hear of the paparazzi doing good; you only hear when we’ve done something bad,” stated Giles Harrison, a 20-year paparazzi veteran and founder of London Entertainment Group, a large photo agency in Los Angeles that specializes in celebrity photography and special events like the red carpet at awards ceremonies.  Of course, it’s hard to think otherwise after August 31, 1997, the day that Princess Diana, along with her companion, Dodi Fayed, and her driver, Henri Paul, were fatally injured in a car crash in a tunnel in Paris, France while being chased by paparazzi.

NationalEnquirerIt would seem that if you’re a celebrity, you’re going to be victimized by the paparazzi.  Not so, according to Harrison.  Sometimes, there’s a lot more to a situation than meets the eye.  “I could tell you stories about publicists being in bed with photographers, celebrities being in bed with photographers – literally and figuratively – to the point where the celebrities share in the proceeds of the paparazzi photos that get taken of them.  There’s a lot of that that goes on.”  Regardless which side of the moral compass one straddles, it’s clear that while there’s demand for celebrity photos, the paparazzi will be only too glad to fight off blood-thirsty Rottweilers and throw themselves from a plane if it means getting the prized “money-shot” that’ll pay off the mortgage – and be seen by millions the world over.  Certainly worth a body cast, wouldn’t you say?

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THAT’S HOLLYWOOD: ICONIC LANDMARKS OF TODAY AND YESTERYEAR Mon, 08 Jun 2015 16:36:06 +0000 tinseltownTinseltown is larger than life, made famous not only by its celebrities but also by its iconic landmarks which shine like stalwart beacons beckoning to the masses of hungry tourists from every corner of the globe who are eager to have their images preserved for posterity – and posted on social media – silhouetted against these famous backdrops, giving them bragging rights to declare to the world at large, “I was there!”.  In the second of this four-part series, we look at some of Hollywood’s most famous landmarks.

Arguably one of the most famous landmarks in the world, and certainly an American icon, is the Hollywood Sign, situated on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills and overlooking Hollywood.  Spelled out in 45-foot tall white capital letters, the sign originally read “Hollywoodland” and was actually a huge advertisement for a housing development in the area that was created in 1923.  In September 1932, actress Peg Entwistle committed suicide by climbing up to the top of the letter “H” and jumping to her death at the age of 24 and in 1945, the last four letters in “Hollywoodland” were removed.     hollywood sign

Opened in 1927, it’s probably safe to say that Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood is the most famous movie theater in the world.  It has traditionally been the site of more Hollywood premieres than any other theater and, for several years, was also home to the Academy Awards ceremony. Most people can readily recognize Grauman’s by its imposing exterior which includes a huge red Chinese pagoda-like structure.  Founder, Sid Grauman, was responsible for implementing the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  However, the stars on the sidewalk outside of his theater were ones he reserved for only the most notable celebrities.

Grauman's_Chinese_TheatreAlmost as famous as Grauman’s are the brass and terrazzo stars which line the sidewalk in front of it, known as the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  The Walk of Fame was inaugurated in 1960 and now stretches across both sides of Hollywood Boulevard as well as Vine Street.  Anyone can nominate a star, even a fan, but the star’s management must approve the nomination.  The cost of a star is $30,000, with the proceeds going to create and maintain the star as well as the Walk of Fame.  All stars who are chosen must appear for their ceremony and have five years in which to schedule it.

Capitol Records, located near Hollywood and Vine, was the world’s first round office building and it’s truly an iconic landmark in Hollywood.  Aerial_Capitol_Records_BuildingThe thirteen-story building looks like a stack of records.  The building’s 90-foot rooftop spire, which resembles the needle on a phonograph, is topped by a red light that continuously blinks the word “Hollywood” in Morse code.  The light was turned on when the building opened in 1956.  Capitol Records is where Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Nat “King” Cole, Paul McCartney and many other music legends recorded some of music’s most enduring albums. walk-of-fame

During Hollywood’s Golden Age, the Brown Derby restaurant was the go-to place for celebrities and dealmakers. The walls were lined with hundreds of caricatures of movie stars, many of whom could be seen dining there on any given night. In 1939, Clark Gable took a break from shooting Gone With the Brown_Derby_on_Wilshire_entrance_1956Wind to propose to his girlfriend, Carole Lombard, in one of the booths.  Lovers of the old I Love Lucy show will remember that when the Ricardos and Mertzes arrived in Hollywood, Lucy dragged Ethel and Fred to the Brown Derby where she spotted movie star, William Holden.  Needless to say, the encounter became memorable for all concerned, thanks to an overzealous Lucy!

There are, of course, other iconic landmarks that have sadly disappeared from Hollywood’s landscape, having fallen victim to development and bankruptcy like Tower Records on Sunset Strip or Schwab’s drug store, also located on Sunset Strip.  They nevertheless continue to endure, thanks to their lofty place in Hollywood’s history, preserved forever in the films we watch and the books we read.

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THAT’S HOLLYWOOD: Famous For Being, Well…Famous Thu, 28 May 2015 15:03:26 +0000 that's-hollywood-screenshotIn this four-part series called That’s Hollywood, we’ll be examining the cultural phenomenon otherwise known as Tinsel Town.  Since practically the turn of the last century, Hollywood has been the entertainment Mecca of the world, epitomizing everything that is glamorous, famous and related to the entertainment industry.  A huge part of Tinsel Town’s allure is its idolization of celebrity and fame.  Today, we examine the strange concept of “famous for being famous”.

The reference source, Wikipedia, defines the phrase “famous for being famous” as a pejorative pop cultural term that refers to someone who attains celeb status for no particular identifiable reason (as opposed to fame based on tangible achievements, skill and/or talent; think Paris and Nicky Hilton, Nicole Richie, the Kardashians) or someone who achieves fame through association with an actual celebrity (think Kimberly Stewart, Rod Stewart’s daughter or Kelly and Jack Osbourne, Ozzy and Sharon’s offspring or Kevin Federline, back up dancer who married Britney Spears).  In most cases, there’s a formula for this pop culture term that goes like this:  Controversial Lifestyle + Inherited Wealth = Famous for Being Famous.  However, as most will agree – especially those who once had achieved the lofty title of being “famous” – fame is fleeting and it’s one thing to achieve any measure of fame and a helluva different ballgame to maintain it.  Of course, not everyone who achieves fame wants it but for those select few who have been smart and ambitious enough to parlay that so-called fame into something significant, they will do whatever it takes to hang on to it at all costs.  Just ask one of the most well-known women the world, Kim Kardashian West.  Yes, that Kardashian.

Born Kimberly Noel Kardashian, she’s the second child of Robert and Kris Kardashian.  The surname “Kardashian” reached public consciousness when Kim’s father, an attorney, was on the legal teamOJ defending O.J. Simpson, the disgraced football hero accused of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, back in the early nineties (who can forget the high-speed car chase televised the world over between the police and the accused after Simpson left the Kardashian family home?).  At the time, Kim Kardashian was just 14 years old.

Much has happened since O.J.’s fateful car chase.  Robert Kardashian died in 2003 and his wife, Kris, subsequently married Bruce Jenner, a famous Olympian, while Kim grew up in the same social circles as hotel heiress, Paris Hilton and was much photographed with Paris during the height of her friend’s fame.  However, it wasn’t until a sex tape that Kim had made with her then-boyfriend, Ray J., had leaked into the press that young Kim was catapulted head-on into fame.  Apparently, having a sex tape if you run in the same social circles as Kim and Paris is pretty much de rigueur and while most of us would have hidden our heads in the sand and died of mortification at such a personal thing becoming public fodder – this didn’t happen in Kim’s case.  The media frenzy was soon harnessed and handled and since then, Kim Kardashian has single-mindedly become a modern-day mogul and a brand, licensing her name to fragrances and fashions.  She’s made cameos in films, graced the covers of some legitimate fashion magazines, released a popular game called Kim Kardashian Hollywood (pulling in an astounding $43.4 million in revenue by the third quarter of 2014) and most recently, released an art book containing a collection of “selfies” called Selfish.  As of late, good old Kim is also splashed across the Internet in various stages of undress (okay, buck naked in most cases) with her generous curves slathered in what looks suspiciously like cooking/automotive oil.  All this, and she can now add wife to singer, Kanye West, and mother to a daughter, North West (who in their right mind would name their kid after a compass direction is beyond me) to her resume as well.

And while there’s some truth to the old adage that “less is more”, this certainly doesn’t seem to apply in Kim Kardashian’s case.  Kim Kardashian has positioned herself everywhere in the media and by kim_and_paris_606all accounts, her adoring public can’t get enough of her.  Her Instagram photos are among the most viewed with a photo of her kissing her husband at their wedding garnering 1.95 million “likes” in three days while a cover of the magazine Paper, featuring a naked Kardashian (think naked butt slathered in gobs of cooking oil), was headlined “Break the Internet”.  While the pics of Kim and her butt didn’t exactly break the Internet, they probably circumnavigated the World Wide Web several times over.  Writer Haley Mlotek probably put it better than anyone as she tried to explain Kardashian’s appeal:  “As a public figure, Kardashian West has made herself one of the only commodities on Earth with a value that increases the more available it becomes.  Her worth is not about scarcity.  It’s about access.”

And rightly so.  With her personal net worth estimated at $65 million, Kardashian was smart enough to recognize her “fame” as a potential commodity and ambitious enough to single-handedly capitalize that fame into a tidy fortune.  Atta girl, Kimye!  Give the world another boob shot just because…you’re famous for being famous.

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KABOOM! YOU’RE DEAD: THE PERFECT CYBER MURDER Wed, 22 Apr 2015 16:57:24 +0000 ????????????????????????????????????????As a writer of murder mysteries and suspense, I’m a huge fan of today’s modern-day police procedural shows like Elementary, Bones, Forever, the CSI franchise, and the NCIS franchise.  All of the shows are somewhat predictable in that there’s a crime – usually involving a murder or two – and the police and/or detectives assigned to the case are tasked to solve it using their intuitive intelligence and powers of reasoning (Elementary, Forever) or through the use of sophisticated forensic and laboratory equipment and highly-trained personnel (CSI) – in real life usually only readily accessible to the upper echelons of government agencies like the FBI.

 The new kid on block in terms of recent television offerings is another addition to the CSI franchise called CSI: Cyber which premiered on March 4, 2015.  In the show, Special Agent Avery Ryan is an esteemed Ph.D. behavioral psychologist-turned-cyber shrink who’s in charge of the Cyber Crime Division at FBI in Quantico.  Her and her eclectic team of computer experts, ex-black-hat hackers as well as a former U.S. Marine solve Internet-related murders, cyber-theft, hacking, sex offences, blackmail and any other crime deemed to be cyber-related within the FBI’s jurisdiction, usually with its origins traced to the Deep Web or Darknet.  For most of us who use Google, Yahoo and Bing for our Internet searching, these terms have little meaning.  The Deep Web or “Deepnet”, as it’s also called, is defined as the portion of the World Wide Web content not indexed or accessible by our basic search engine buddies, Google, Yahoo and Bing.  Sounds a bit ominous, doesn’t it?  It gets even more ominous with the Darknet.  Brad Chacos, Senior Editor at PC World, defines the Darknet as the “hidden, anonymous underbelly of the searchable web” that’s home to rogues, terrorists and political activists and is accessed only with the help of specially-designed anonymizing software.

What makes the CSI: Cyber especially interesting is that it takes the basic murder concept of “bang, bang, you’re dead” to a whole new level – a cyber level, if you will, giving rise to the concept of the CSI Cyberperfect murder.  In one episode, a popular printer’s design flaw enabled the introduction of programmable code which, when introduced into the printer’s operating software, caused the printers to self-combust, resulting in a seemingly perfect crime of cyber-arson.  Another episode dealt with a bomber who targeted random individuals’ smart phones to set off bombs remotely while yet another episode dealt with hacked baby monitors which resulted in a slew of kidnapped babies being sold off to the highest bidders on the black market.  Quite frankly, the concept behind these cyber crimes is ingenious, to say the least.

The current hot topic of technology, the 3-D printer, has also had a starring role on television recently.  The beauty of a 3-D printer is that it can make three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file.  These printers are reportedly being used by many different types of companies for varying tasks ranging from the practical, such as creating prototypes of footwear, to loftier medical research used in the development of a 3-D printed synthetic bone substitute.  The sky’s the limit where these machines are concerned.  Take a recent episode from NCIS: Los Angeles, where some members of the military were murdered during an ambush in a country overseas.  In order to solve the murders, two of the agents went to the bangembassy where the murders took place and using a special camera, they photographed the four corners of the room where the murders took place and then uploaded the images to a flash drive which were then fed into a 3-D printer which subsequently re-created the crime scene down to the minutest detail – all in 3-D, of course.  And let’s not forget that episode on Elementary where the murderer printed his murder weapon – a plastic gun – on a 3-D printer.

Technology has, unfortunately, opened up countless avenues for would-be murderers intent on committing the perfect crime – or cyber crime, as the case may be.  For writers like myself, it gives rise to inventive new ways to “off” a hapless victim when your basic “bang, bang!” by gunshot just doesn’t do it anymore.

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Insurgently Divergent: the H-U-G-E Box Office Clout of YA Sun, 05 Apr 2015 16:37:51 +0000 Twilight by Stephanie Meyer“Bella and Edward sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G…First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes millions at the movie box office…”  All right, I know it doesn’t rhyme like it’s supposed to but you get my drift – and if you don’t, let me expand on it a bit more.

First there was the wizardly wizard, Harry Potter – yes, that Harry Potter…then came the lovey-dovey and utterly adorable Bella and Edward from the Twilight saga…followed in their footsteps by the fearless Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games trilogy…and then the spunky cancer-stricken Hazel Grace and Gus from The Fault in our Stars…and now there’s Tris and Four, of the Divergent series.  What do all of these characters have in common, you ask?  They are all characters in hugely popular movies; characters which populated the pages of very popular Young Adult (YA) books by J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, John Harry Potter by J.K. RowlingGreen and Veronica Roth – all of them now superstars in the world of YA fiction.

YA fiction, a genre directed to readers twelve and up, has become a global money-making machine that squeezes money from page turners as easily as juice from ripe, luscious grapes.  Nearly a quarter of the two hundred top-grossing films worldwide that were tallied by Box Office Mojo have been directly adapted from books (excluding picture books, comic books or children’s tales).  Of that quarter of top-grossing films, sixteen of them started off as YA novels and subsequently earned an impressive 13.4 billion at the box office.  All of the YA books that are adapted into movies already have a die-hard fan base and that translates extremely well into box office success.

Of course, in addition to a readership of tweens and teenagers of both sexes eager to spend their hard-earned babysitting and after-school bucks, YA books are also widely read by grown-ups as well.  A 2012 Bowker Market Research study suggested that about fifty-five percent of YA books are bought by readers who are eighteen years old and up, with adults between 30 and 44 accounting for twenty-eight percent of all YA sales.  In box office lingo, this means that forty-five percent of Insurgent’s opening weekend audience was in their mid-twenties.

And it all started with young Harry…Harry Potter that is, J.K. Rowling’s now famous young wizard.  The incredible popularity of the Potter books and the movies is unprecedented.  The eight Harry Potter movies have generated a cumulative 7.2 billion dollars in box office ticket sales between 2001 and 2011.  Of course, those readers familiar with the books will, for the most part, go to see the movie(s).  On the other hand, those movie goers who are discovering the characters for the first time will invariably seek out the books in the series.

TwilightMost will agree that Rowling’s Harry Potter series would be a tough act to follow.  Tough, yes…impossible, no – not when it’s followed by the sizzling love affair between the human teenager, Bella Swan, and the hot telepathic vampire, Edward Cullen, in the Twilight saga.  Twilight’s angst-ridden vampire lovefest reaped in a total of 3.34 billion global box office dollars from its five installments as well as sales of over 116 million copies of the books.  And let’s not forget the kick-butt female role model in Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy whose popularity helped bring in 2.3 billion dollars at the global box office as well as sales of 27.7 million copies of the books in 2012 alone.  Next in this distinguished lineup is the Divergent series.  Although Tris certainly has the kick-butt female role model thing going for her, along with a cute co-star with whom she obviously has chemistry, only time will tell whether this translates well into mega box office dollars for the franchise.

As long as authors keep churning out YA bestsellers, this promises no shortage of movies for the big screen – and huge box office returns in the process.

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Mary Higgins Clark: Still Reigning Queen of Suspense Thu, 26 Feb 2015 02:51:16 +0000 Mary Higgins ClarkThe fateful words, ‘God, it was beastly hot in Calcutta’, uttered by a friend who was a Pan Am stewardess (the politically-correct term back then), had put the future Queen of Suspense on a very different career trajectory than the one she has become famous for the world over.  Deciding that she, like her friend, wanted to see the world, a very young Mary Higgins signed up as a fellow Pan Am stewardess and was soon doing runs to Europe, Africa and Asia.  Some were more memorable than others like the time she ended up in Syria during a revolution or the time she found herself on the last flight into Czechoslovakia before the Iron Curtain went down.  These adventures would later prove valuable fodder for her best-selling books.

Mary Higgins flew for a year before getting married to Warren Clark, her crush since the age of 16.  He was nine years older than her and a friend of her brother, Joe.  Warren Clark also had a heart condition and wasn’t insurable so Mary Higgins Clark worked throughout her marriage – a marriage that tragically ended when Warren Clark died of a heart attack, leaving her a widow with five young children ranging in age from 13 years down to five.  As fate would have it, Higgins Clark had called a friend a few hours before her husband died.  The friend did radio script writing and had often asked Higgins Clark to join her company in writing for radio which is how she began her career writing radio shows.

When her children were young, Higgins Clark would get up at five in the morning and write at the kitchen table until she had to get the children ready for school at seven.  “For me, writing is a need,” she has said.  “It’s the degree of yearning that separates the real writer from the ‘would-be’s’.  Those who say, ‘I’ll write when I have time, when the kids are grown up or when I have a quiet place to work,’ will probably never do it.’” 

Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins Clark’s first book was a biographical novel about George Washington called Aspire to the HeavensAspire to the Heavens Mary Higgins ClarkAlthough Higgins Clark acknowledges that the book was a commercial disaster, it proved to her that she could write a book and get it published.  Despite the commercial failure of her first book, she went to work on a suspense novel next because those were the ones she liked to read.  The book was called Where Are the Children? and it became her first bestseller as well as a turning point in her life and career.  Each of her subsequent 41 books have been bestsellers in the U.S. and in various European countries.  As of 2007, all of Higgins Clark’s books remained in print, with her debut suspense novel, Where Are the Children? in its seventy-fifth printing.

Her own father died when Higgins Clark was ten, leaving her mother to raise her and her two brother alone.  Her mother took babysitting jobs and while still in high school, Higgins Clark babysat and worked as a switchboard operator to help with the family finances.  She went to college after her own children were grown and she was already an established writer.  In 1979, Mary Higgins Clark graduated from Fordham University at Lincoln Center summa cum laude with a B.A. in philosophy and to celebrate, she gave herself a graduation party with the invitation proclaiming:  ‘This card is 25 years overdue – help prove it’s not too late.’

And by all accounts, Mary Higgins Clark has been a role model extraordinaire to her five children and has done a superb job raising them single-handedly.  Her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark is an author of suspense novels like her mother; her second daughter, Marilyn, is a superior court judge, while her daughter, Patty, is an executive assistant at the Mercantile Exchange.  Her son, Warren, is a lawyer and a municipal court judge and her other son, David, is president and CEO of Talk Marketing Enterprises, Inc.  Dating 

Higgins Clark and family on her 80th birthday.

Higgins Clark and family on her 80th birthday.

throughout her widowhood, Higgins Clark was married to Raymond Ploetz from 1978 to 1986, an experience she once described as a ‘disastrous’ marriage and one which she had annulled.  In 1996, she remarried again, this time to John Conheeney, the retired CEO of Merrill Lynch Futures.  They had been introduced to each other by her daughter, Patty.  Higgins Clark has stated that her marriage to Conheeney greatly expanded her family since between them, they boast nine children and about 17 grandchildren.

Now in her late eighties, Higgins Clark shows no sign of slowing down.  When asked once whether she would ever consider a life of leisure, she refers to a saying she once heard:  ‘If you want to be happy for a year, win the lottery.  If you want to be happy for a lifetime, love what you do.  That’s the way it is for me – I love to spin yarns.’  And with any luck, the Queen of Suspense will keep spinning those yarns for years to come.


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American Sniper: Just Another “Us” Against “Them” Movie? Sat, 07 Feb 2015 21:09:22 +0000 American SniperThis past weekend, my husband and I went to see American Sniper, the 2014 biographical war drama film based on the book, American Sniper:  The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History written by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice.  My husband had looked forward to seeing the movie.  Me – not so much.  As a writer of mystery novels, I’m no stranger to “offing” my characters in inventive ways but I’m nevertheless the kind of gal who still yearns for happy endings and prefers to watch a movie without having to keep tabs on a growing body count (something that didn’t seem to concern my husband one iota as he plowed his way through a tub of popcorn, his eyes never leaving the screen).

The book and the movie immortalize the career of Chris Kyle, the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history.  With 255 kills, 160 of which were officially confirmed by the Department of Justice, Chris quickly earned the nickname “Legend” throughout the military, thanks to his many kills.  The movie was directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Bradley Cooper in the titular role.  Suffice it to say, the violence, bloodshed and body count throughout the movie were a stomach-churning constant but the movie also gave consideration to several important issues such as the toll war takes on a family whose members serve in the military and war’s after-effects once the soldiers return to civilian life. 

American Sniper garnered six Academy award nominations as well as its share of heavy criticism from various fronts, primarily for oscarslionizing the gun culture and for promoting blind adoration of the military.  Promoting blind adoration of the military?  Not necessarily.  Sending a message ofus against them to keep them out” – most definitely.  Nowhere in American Sniper is this more evident than in a brief scene where one of the characters asks Bradley Cooper’s character, Chris, why he keeps going back to Iraq (he had done four tours).  Chris’ response was:  So that they don’t come here.  This is certainly an altruistic take on the good guys/bad guys scenario but sadly enough, recent events in our history involving homegrown terrorists in our own backyards have convoluted the “us” and “them” theories, making his statement naively unrealistic. 

Take for instance the Boston Marathon bombings and related subsequent shootings which began on April 15, 2013 and killed four people and injured an estimated 264 others, instigated by two Chechen brothers motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The attack was on U.S. soil by two brothers who had immigrated to the U.S. as refugees.  Then there were the two Islamist terrorists armed with assault rifles and other weapons who forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical newspaper in Paris on January 7, 2015, killing eleven and injuring another eleven as they shouted “Allahu Akbar” during their attack.  Five others were subsequently killed and another eleven wounded in related shootings that followed in another French region, also by Islamic terrorists, the gunmen belonging to a branch of Al-Quaeda.  And who can forget the horror of September 11, 2001 and the series of co-ordinated terrorist attacks by Al-Quaeda on the U.S.?  All these horrific events raise some hard-hitting questions how do you tell the good guys from the bad and how do you keep them out of your peaceful nation when they were born there?

Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper pose during the 87th Academy Awards nominees luncheon in Beverly HillsResponding to those critics that considered the movie as being excessively violent and one which celebrated war and killing, director Eastwood remarked, “I was a child growing up during World War II.  That was supposed to be the one to end all wars.  And four years later, I was standing at the draft board being drafted during the Korean conflict, and then after that there was Vietnam, and it goes on and on forever.  I just wonder…does this ever stop?  No, it doesn’t.” 

Sadly enough, Eastwood may very well be right on that score.  As long as humanity exists, wars will continue to be waged.  Now the question becomes:  Instead of going “off” to war, how long before we’re deploying our soldiers to fight wars in our own backyard? 


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Contest Winners & New Book Announcement Thu, 08 Jan 2015 01:09:09 +0000 I’m very pleased to announce that Madelon and Larry from Goodreads are the winners of my LAST STOP KLINDENSPIEL Read & Review Contest held on January 2, 2015.  They have both won $100 Amazon Gift Cards and I hope they have fun spending them!

Last Stop Klindenspiel by Marta Tandori

My recently-published YA Holocaust mystery, LAST STOP KLINDENSPIEL, features fifteen-year-old Katya Holberg, the heroine of my Kate Stanton Mystery Series.  For those of you who are familiar with my mystery series, you know that its feisty main character, Kate Stanton, started off life as Katya Holberg, a war child whose early years were fraught with danger and unbelievable hardships, all because of who her father was.  Combining the survival instincts made famous in THE HUNGER GAMES with the intensity in THE BOOK THIEF, LAST STOP KLINDENSPIEL is a tightrope of horrors that will make anyone think twice about running away to join the circus.  If you haven’t read it yet, I urge you to do so – I promise, you won’t be disappointed!


buy from Amazon



My next book in the Kate Stanton Mystery Series, THE CROSSING AT BLAISDELL PARK, will be available in late January, 2015.  Be on the lookout for it!  Kate is neck deep in a new mystery which involves her husband’s billion dollar blockbuster movie as well as the ghost of a civil war heroine.  Here’s a bit more about the new book:

Coming January 2015

Coming January 2015

The huge success of the year’s blockbuster civil war epic, The Crossing at Blaisdell Park, has brought a resurgence of interest in the former sixties musical duo, the Paisleys, and its only surviving member, Kate Stanton, who had recorded an interactive version of the duo’s first hit single for the movie.  With an initial worldwide gross of just under a billion dollars and a 3-D version of the movie in the works, it looks like the The Crossing – as it’s been dubbed by the press – is going to go down in history as one of Hollywood’s most successful films – until tragedy strikes, that is.  Just as Kate is about to unveil the Paisleys’ long-awaited star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a runaway truck jumps the curb a few feet from where everyone is gathered, killing a woman dressed as Charlotte Valcour, the heroine in The Crossing.  The tragedy precedes a series of disastrous events which plague the 3-D shoot, fueled by persistent rumors that it’s being haunted by the ghost of the movie’s dead heroine, Charlotte.  Things aren’t helped by all the negative press and become even more complicated when the director of the movie suddenly disappears, forcing production to a grinding halt.  Kate soon realizes that Charlotte’s ghost may not be the only thing they need to contend with as she and her husband, Paul, find themselves dodging bullets and a killer intent on preventing them from uncovering the truth behind The Crossing at Blaisdell Park.

Be sure to keep your eyes open for new updates on my new book as well as an announcement for a new contest to celebrate its release!

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THE HOLOCAUST: MORE THAN PULP FICTION? Wed, 07 Jan 2015 01:21:50 +0000 holocaustThe Holocaust.  The very mention of this shameful and horrific event in our not-so-distant past causes many to buckle with untold emotion as they weep and continue to mourn for the murdered souls of their loved ones while others are angered and outraged as to how such a thing could have been allowed to happen in the first place.  Others still are filled with curiosity as to what the Holocaust actually was while a very small percentage will adamantly continue to deny that the Holocaust ever happened at all.

The Holocaust was the systematic, cold-blooded persecution and murder, by the Nazi regime and its collaborators, of approximately six million Jewish men, women and children as well as the murder of approximately another five million non-Jewish gypsies, Poles, communists, homosexuals, Soviet prisoners of war as well as the mentally and physically disabled throughout Nazi Germany and the German-occupied territories.  From 1941 to 1945, they were targeted and methodically murdered through Nazi-run concentration camps.  Ghettos were established throughout Europe in which the Jewish people were confined before being shipped off to the extermination camps and their imminent deaths.

An integral part of our history, the Holocaust forms a portion of the history curriculum at most schools, with the introduction to the Holocaust usually through Anne Frank and her wartime diary, The Diary of a Young Girl.  The diary, which was given to Anne on her thirteenth birthday, chronicles her life and experiences hiding with her family in some concealed rooms in the building where Anne’s father worked before the German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War.  Anne and her family were eventually captured before she and her sister were transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where they were sent to their deaths in March, 1945.  Anne had just turned fifteen three months earlier.anne_fank_poster

Since the publication of Anne Frank’s diary in 1947, books about the Holocaust began to be published and soon became a subgenre known as “Holocaust literature”.  Some readers and educators have scoffed and called it sensationalistic pulp fiction but quite frankly, Holocaust literature is anything but that.  Be it fiction or non-fiction, Holocaust literature presents factual information in such a way that it conveys a personal experience in the face of a cataclysmic event so that it transcends the mind and touches the heart through three different avenues:  remembrance, survival and courage/humanity.  And nowhere are these three avenues better exemplified than in the following YA Holocaust fiction titles:

The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988) hurls its protagonist – an American teenage Jewish girl of the 1980’s – back in time to the terrifying circumstances of being a young Jewish girl in a Polish shtetl in the 1940’s.

The Reader (1995) explores how post-war generations should approach the generation that took part in, or witnessed, the atrocities of the Holocaust.  The story is divided into several sections and first deals with Michael Berg, a fifteen-year-old boy, who meets and the-book-thiefbegins an affair with Hanna Schmidt, a 36 year-old illiterate tram conductor.  In the second part of the book, Michael is in law school and he and his group of students sit in on a war crimes trial where he’s shocked to discover that one of the defendants is none other than Hanna, who had gone on to become a former guard at Auschwitz and was now being tried for allowing 300 Jewish women, allegedly under her protection, to die in a church fire.  In the third part of the book, Michael struggles over what he feels for her with what she’s accused of doing. 

The Book Thief (2005) is a Holocaust story narrated by Death himself and deals with nine-year-old Liesel Meminger, living in Nazi Germany in 1939.  Her mother is taken away from Liesel and her brother, and while on a train to Molching, Liesel’s brother dies.  The narrator, Death, sees her for the first time.

Last Stop Klindenspiel (2014) is a post-Holocaust story that explores the fate of fifteen-year-old Katya Holberg and her family.  Katya, her sister Lilly, and her mother are separated from Last Stop Klindenspiel by Marta Tandoriher father, a Wehrmacht commander running one of the concentration camps, during the liberation of Poland by the Allies.  Despite the war being over, hate runs deep against Katya and her family, resulting in the brutal murders of her mother and sister.  Fearing for her safety, Katya’s grandmother sends her to Klindenspiel, the only circus of its kind in all of Europe, where all the performers are children but once there, Katya quickly realizes that all is not as it seems.

Arguably, Holocaust literature can and will evoke many an emotion in the reader – but the last thing anyone can ever accuse it of being is sensationalistic pulp fiction, wouldn’t you agree?


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