All posts by Brad Whittington

Catching Up

I finally got my quota of screenplays read for the Austin Film Festival, earning a Producer’s Badge. Last year it got me into a party where I chatted with Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire fame for 10 minutes or so. (Yes, that’s me shamelessly name-dropping.)

And I got my own screenplay finished (the 6th draft, at least, who knows how many more I’ll do) and submitted to the competition. And I’ve finished reading two books. (Reviews coming in due time.)

But I have to tell you where I was last night. I had a chance to chat with Roy Blount, Jr. at a Writer’s League of Texas fundraiser. (Yes, that’s me shamelessly name-dropping again!) They were taping Wait, wait . . . don’t tell me in the Bass Auditorium and his sister is on the Writer’s League board, so I guess it made sense for him to do a little talk and book signing as a fundraiser for the WLT while he was in town. He’s authored 20+ books and is the president of the Authors Guild, pioneering the settlement with Google, which, as part of its scheme of global domination, has been practicing wholesale scanning of books for the past decade or so.

I got there a bit early, having stopped by Habana House to pick up my free monthly cigar. I loaded up on refreshments and stood alone at a white-table-cloth-covered bistro table. The next thing I knew, I was joined by Roy and Susan. We chatted a bit.

Mary Gordon Spence kicked things off with a very long and hilarious introduction and Mr. Blount (as his close friends like me call him) followed with even more hilarious set of stories, interspersed with information and analysis of the Google settlement, which I signed onto and thanked him for pushing through.

Overall, the evening rocked. And I now have another book in the To Be Read shelf.

Half Price Books

As I’ve mentioned before, Half Price Books rocks.The Woman wanted to check it out on Mother’s Day, and who was I to deny her? We walked away with 15 books for $55 including tax. One of the books (a biography of Wodehouse) was $14, so you’re looking at 14 books for $40 including tax. Hot dang!Here’s the haul. My purchases ($36):

  • Wodehouse: A Life, Robert McCrum. P. G. Wodehouse is probably the most under-acknowledged writer of the 20th century.
  • John Gardner: Literary Outlaw, Barry Silesky. Gardner’s Grendel blew me away, 192 pages of genius.
  • Story, Robert McKee. It’s a screenwriting classic. I guess I better read it.
  • The World Is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman. Enjoyed Beirut to Lebanon. Can’t wait to pick this one up.
  • Marriage Lines, Ogden Nash. I’m not much of a poetry guy, but it’s only 108 pages. How painful can it be?
  • They Shall See God, Athol Dickson. River Rising rocked my world. Aching to start this one.
  • The Bookman’s Promise, John Dunning. Finally getting around to the 3rd in this very entertaining series.
  • The Miernik Dossier, Charles McCrarry. Last year I picked up 2 of his books based on the jacket copy, but wanted to get in on the ground floor (first in the series) so I’ve been holding off reading them until I got this one.

The Woman’s purchases ($15):

  • The Collectors, David Baldacci
  • Stone Cold, David Baldacci
  • Death of an Expert Witness, P. D. James
  • Shroud for a Nightingale, P. D. James
  • Devices and Desires, P. D. James
  • The Murder Room, P. D. James
  • The Lighthouse, P. D. James

She’s a Baldacci fan. (I’ve never read him.) She got the James books because they were all on clearance for $1 (she’s a sucker for a deal) and I told her I would eventually read them. Maybe when I retire, after I finish Agatha Christie. (Amazingly enough, I’ve only read one Christie. I’m saving her to savor when I have the time to lounge for a year on the deck with a refreshing beverage and read incessantly.)As you can see, she got almost half the books, but spent less than a third of the money. Maybe I’ll just count this toward Father’s Day.


Like last year, I’m reading scripts for a film festival which cuts into my recreational reading. These days, the elliptical is surrounded by stacks of screenplays, not novels.Unlike last year, I’m also entering the competition. I’m working on my third screenwriting project. I have three weeks to get the sixth draft done before the deadline. We shall see. Overall, it means I’m seriously behind in my reading.So, when you see another review from me, you’ll know that I finally submitted my entry and waded through the pile of other entries I have to read. (In case you’re wondering, I’m reading in a different category than I’m entering. Everything’s on the up-and-up.)

Feels Like Home

From the Songs you won’t hear on the radio files:

You may not recognize the name Randy Newman but there is no question you’ve heard his songs. After years of writing hits for 70s stars like 3 Dog Night (Mama Told Me Not To Come, Never Been To Spain), Joe Cocker (I Think It’s Going To Rain Today, You Can Leave Your Hat On), and Harry Nillson, and having hits of his own (Short People, I Love LA), Newman turned to writing movie soundtracks (A Bug’s Life, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Cars). I mean, who hasn’t heard You’ve Got a Friend in Me?

Back in the 90s, Newmna wrote a musical adaptation of Faust. Feels Like Home was written for Bonnie Raitt to sing.

It was also covered by Linda Rhonstadt and Chantal Kreviazuk and appears on the How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days soundtrack.The female covers are great, but there’s something irrevocably poignant in Newman’s plaintive, mush-mouth voice expressing such transparent vulnerability.

This song is so powerful, not even a ukulele cover can completely destroy it.And, as a bonus, here’s a live recording of a lesser known but equally powerful Newman song, I Miss You.


Buzzy Linhart

From the Songs you won’t hear on the radio files:

Besides the innate inanity, the thing that draws me to Buzzy is his complete commitment to the song to the point of not caring about sounding ridiculous. For example, the scat solo at the end of The Time To Live Is Now.

And more pointedly, the last minute of Get Together.

He almost qualifies as a lost boy except for the fact that nobody knows who he is. Or perhaps that makes him the quintessential lost boy. In the first 10 or 20 minutes of the film you hear the most amazing list of folks he jammed with, but he was incredibly self-sabotaging.

Famous: The Buzzy Linhart Story


Tom Lehrer

From the Songs you won’t hear on the radio files:

I first ran across Tom Lehrer in 1975 while scouring through some old guy’s record collection looking for big band music for a production of The Glass Menagerie. Lehrer is not about the music, he’s about the clever lyrics.

The Masochism Tango
Poisoning Pigeons In The Park

Lehrer could be a bit of a snob. OK, a lot of a snob. But some of my favorites were done for The Electric Company. Like The LY Song, and Silent E.

Daniel Lanois – The Maker

First up from the “Songs you won’t hear on the radio” files:
The Maker by Daniel Lanois

Lanois has a moody, atmospheric sound. I find this song very moving with its themes of alienation, knowing and being known and allusions to the fall. He’s produced Grammy winning albums for U2, Dylan, and Emmylou.

The original
Willie/Emmylou/Daniel cover
Dave Matthews cover

Note on the Emmylou cover: About 25 years ago I jammed with the guitar player, Buddy Miller. Somewhere I have a tape of me and The Woman, Buddy and his wife, Julie, trading songs in his living room. With Daniel (Whittington, not Lanois) talking over one of my songs. He was 3, I think.

2008 Reading List

  1. *** The Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Connelly, 2005
  2. *** From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman, 1989
  3. *** The Maze of Bones, Rick Riordan, 2008
  4. *** The Battle of the Labyrinth, Rick Riordan, 2008
  5. *** Making a Good Writer Great: A Creativity Workbook for Screenwriters, Linda Seger, 1999
  6. *** Creating Unforgettable Characters, Linda Seger, 1990
  7. *** The Italian Secretary, Caleb Carr, 2005
  8. *** The Alientist, Caleb Carr, 1995
  9. *** Advanced Screenwriting: Raising your Script to the Academy Award Level, Dr. Linda Seger, 2003
  10. *** The Shape Shifter, Tony Hillerman, 2006
  11. *** The South Beach Diet, Arthur Agatston, 2003
  12. **Property Management for Dummies, Robert Griswold, 2001
  13. *** The Shape of Mercy, Susan Meissner, 2008
  14. **Murder on the Rocks, Karen MacInerney, 2006
  15. ** Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, B J Lossing, 1848
  16. *** The Year of Living Biblically, A. J. Jacobs, 2007
  17. ** The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley, 1982
  18. *** Demon: A Memoir, Tosca Lee, 2007
  19. ** R. Holmes & Co., John Kendrick Bangs, 1906
  20. *** Romancing Hollywood Nobody, Lisa Samson, 2008
  21. ** Texas: A Year with the Boys, by William Hoffman, 1983
  22. ** Anatomy of a Rodeo Clown, Aleta Lutz
  23. ** Burning Bright, John Steinbeck, 1950
  24. *** The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers and Screenwriters, Christopher Vogler, 1992
  25. ** A Place Called Wiregrass, by Michael Morris, 2002
  26. *** Muslim Women in America: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today. Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Jane I. Smith, Kathleen M. Moore, 2006
  27. **** River Rising, Athol Dickson, 2005
  28. ***+ Straight Man, Richard Russo, 1997
  29. * The Shack, William P. Young, 2007
  30. *** Deadline, John Dunning, 1981
  31. *** Retribution, Stuart Kaminsky, 2002
  32. *** Embrace Me, Lisa Samson, 2008
  33. *** To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis, 1997
  34. ** The Holland Suggestions, John Dunning, 1975
  35. *** Finding Hollywood Nobody, Lisa Samson, 2008
  36. *** Skeleton Man, Tony Hillerman, 2004
  37. *** My Name is Russell Fink, by Michael Snyder, 2008
  38. *** Action Plan for High Cholesterol, Arry Durstine, 2006
  39. *** Sleep Toward Heaven, Amanda Eyre Ward, 2003

The Day Before The Morning After

In honor of New Year’s Day, here’s an excerpt from Jeeves Takes Charge on New Year’s Eve.

I crawled off the sofa and opened the door. A kind of darkish sort of respectful Johnnie stood without. “I was sent by the agency, sir,” he said. “I was given to understand that you required a valet.”

I’d have preferred an undertaker, but I told him to stagger in, and he floated noiselessly through the doorway like a healing zephyr. That impressed me from the start.

Meadowes had had flat feet and used to clump. This fellow didn’t seem to have any feet at all. He just streamed in. He had a grave, sympathetic face, as if he, too, knew what it was to sup with the lads. “Excuse me, sir,” he said gently.

Then he seemed to flicker, and wasn’t there any longer. I heard him moving about in the kitchen, and presently he came back with a glass on a tray.

“If you would drink this, sir,” he said, with a kind of bedside manner, rather like the royal doctor shooting the bracer into the sick prince.

“It is a little preparation of my own invention. It is the Worcester Sauce that gives it its colour. The raw egg makes it nutritious. The red pepper gives it its bite. Gentlement have told me that have found it extremely invigorating after a late evening.”

I would have clutched at anything that looked like a life-line that morning. I swallowed the stuff. For a moment I felt as if somebody had touched off a bomb inside the old bean and was strolling down my throat with a lighted torch, and then everything seemed suddenly to get all right. The sun shone in through the window; birds twittered in the tree-tops; and, generally speaking, hope dawned once more.

“You’re engaged!” I sad, as soon as I could say anything.

I perceived clearly that this cove was one of the world’s wonder workers, the sort no home should be without.

“Thank you sir. My name is Jeeves.”