The Books On My Nightstand

This page will be dedicated to what I’m reading at the moment. This can be all over the spectrum and can also be several different books at any given time. I’m probably like most everybody else — whatever you’re reading at the moment is a part of a stack on the nightstand by the bed. I keep trying to chip away at it — and it keeps getting higher!

A couple of the titles I’m paging through at the moment are:

 

Tough As Nails: The Life And Films Of Richard Brooks by Douglass K. Daniel.

Richard Brooks was a top writer-director. I love many of his Hollywood films such as two of my favorites The Professionals and In Cold Blood (which you can find on my Amazon Store page). I even like his failures like $ (Dollars) and Fever Pitch.

Ever since I was a teenager I’ve read whatever I could find on Brooks, which has not been much. He was very controlling of his work, not even giving his scripts to his actors to know the movie they were working on.

Author Douglass K. Daniel has spent years researching Brooks life and uncovering information that even actress Jean Simmons, Brooks’ wife of twenty years, didn’t know. Fascinating and page-turning. I only wish that it was two or three times longer.

Writer-director Richard Brooks (in safari jacket on the right) beside cinematographer Conrad Hall taking a light meter reading on the set of "The Professionals." (Courtesy Columbia Pictures)

 

Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges by Glenn Lovell

I grew up loving the movies The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Hallelujah Trail, but I’d never found anything written about the producer-director of those iconic films. To be honest, before this book I knew absolutely nothing about John Sturges.

Author Glenn Lovell got to know Sturges during the final years of his life and has produced this terrific book. I had no idea that Sturges had been one of RKO’s top film editors in the 1930s alongside Robert Wise (who edited Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane and directed West Side Story and The Sound of Music) and Mark Robson (who later directed Peyton Place) or that he had directed so many films — sometimes as many as three in one year when he was a young contract director.

 

The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins

I’m reading this one more out of curiosity. I don’t read much fiction. When I do it’s more to study the style of the writing.

It’s a fictionalized and extremely lurid interpretation of the life of Howard Hughes.

I love the 1960s Steve McQueen movie Nevada Smith and was surprised to discover in the credits when I watched it again recently that it was based on a section of The Carpetbaggers. Steve McQueen’s the character of Nevada Smith in the 1880s Old West is depicted in the movie version of The Carpetbaggers into 1920s Hollywood and portrayed as an older man by Alan Ladd.

Harold Robbins had been a movie studio production manager before going into writing novels — and this shows in his writing. It plays like hard boiled fiction meets B-movie melodrama. But it does keep you turning the pages.

I remember seeing Harold Robbins on The Today Show back in the Seventies where he stated point blank, “I am the greatest living writer in the world. My books have sold more copies than any other writer in history.” That turned me off for over thirty years.

There was a time when Harold Robbins books were everywhere. Then recently went into a big used book store here in Sacramento and couldn’t find anything. “Harold Robbins,” replied the clerk, “boy, that’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time.”

I ordered this copy off of eBay. It’s 600+ pages. That will take me a while to get through.

I need a month or two of warm weather and clear agenda to just relax and read. Couldn’t we all.

 

Canon 7D – From Snapshots to Great Shots by Nicole S. Young

As you know, I have switched from camcorders for shooting movies and augmenting my news video with the Canon 7D.

I started out seriously learning photography with the ambition of being a photojournalist of still photos back in the 70s when the Nikon F 35mm camera was king. I still always wanted to make movies and, even when I started working as a TV news cameraman and was shooting video onto 3/4″ tape I still always had a Nikon F.

Now that digital has changed everything I want to be apart of it.

I got my Canon 7D in the first batch of 7Ds to arrive in the States. And it has been a learning curve. But I absolutely love that I am able to now do both still and video with one camera.

All that said, there is so much that these new hybrid digital DSLRs can do that I feel that I need to know more. I’ve found the instruction booklet that came with the camera to be fine for quick reference, but I need more than black & white drawings in instructions.

It’s one thing to be instructed on where the histogram is. But what good is knowing where the histogram is if you don’t know what a histogram is?

This book Canon 7D – From Snapshots to Great Shots is showing me and explaining to me what the 7D does, why it is useful and how to use the information. And Nicole S. Young illustrates everything with beautiful color photos that were shot with a Canon 7D.

There are a bunch of these “digital camera how-to” books out there. I picked up this one for only $16.99 at Fry’s because, I know this sounds moronic, it had the best photos in it. Every photo in this book is from a 7D so it shows me what my camera as a tool and I as a photographer are capable of.

It’s easily and intelligently written. Many things I have to read and read again — because I’m pretty slow about new things.

I started at page one and am going through the book with my 7D beside me, going through the menus and settings of the camera as described in Miss Young’s book.

Knowledge is power and the 7D is a powerful camera. This book is helping to empower me.

Also, the graphic layout on each page is beautifully done. (I may duplicate it with my next book.)