Saturday, March 10, 2012

Disbelief, On A Meat Hook

Dammit!

I'd picked up a copy (ebook) of James Ellroy's American Tabloid based on a review and it has been pretty much as-promised, a sleazboid angle on events of the late 50s/early 60s, replete with Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover, various Kennedys, Cuba, the Mob and bad cops of every sort. And the cast goes morally downhill from there, with a plot of wheels-in-wheels-in-dead bodies left in ditches....

But every so often, he gets something wrong -- a little wrong at first, room-bugging tech poorly described and obviously not understood, and then I flipped the page and a rogue FBI agent, off to shoot porn movies in Mexico with Jack Ruby (yes, the book is just that cat-litter gritty) snaps an (innocent, for once) picture with a Polaroid and the snapshot whirrs out--

No it didn't! BLAST YOU, ELLROY! You just stuck an SX-70 from 1972 into a guy's hands in 1959 -- and 13 years might look small from where you're sitting, but it's a huge leap from "set the iris, snap the shutter, pull the tab, wave the film around a little, pull out the fixing-compound sponge and coat the shot, then stick it to a pasteboard backing so it won't curl" to "just push a button and, hey-presto! out pops the snapshot," and that's the difference between a 1959 Polaroid Land Camera and an SX-70.

That dull thud? That was my disbelief, padded cuffs broken, dropping right onto the unpadded floor. Sheesh. It's not like five minutes of research could've told him when and how when it came to instant cameras? I'm almost afraid to finish the book. What's next, Bobby Kennedy with touch-tone phones in his office? (Dial, by the time he was Attorney General, FWIW, with something weird for the secure line(s); it's not like there aren't documentaries showing the office, phone bank, desk, stuffed tiger under a wall-hanger rifle and all.)

I need to write more. While "pulp hack" is kind of a high goal for me, at least I try to look stuff up; SF involves a lot of making things up but I work to riff from reality -- and avoid jarring anachronism.

12 comments:

Brigid said...

I got called West for work, but am back now. I have a paperback for you from one of our IND blog meet friends :-) who asked that I give it to you. "The Complete Vunus Equilateral" by George O. Smith. It's older, a complete edition though in good condition with an introduction by Arthur C. Clarke. It's old and delicate, an original print, but in looking through it I can see why they sent it. LOTS of references to old radio technology. I think you will like it.

Next weekend I'm out of town,= at a wedding with a friend, but after that, I will get it to you.

Keads said...

I have your book and if you do "pulp fiction" I am so there.

Bubblehead Les. said...

The Wife was watching some movie on Netflix via the Roku (had it over a year, you should SEE all the Dead Sci-Fi Series that are available!), and the kids in one scene were talking about the upcoming Election between Kennedy and Nixon. Too bad Booker T. and the MG's "Green Onions" was playing in the background. One of the biggest hits of 1962, as I recall.

Oh, and half the males had hair longer than the Beatles.

Frank W. James said...

My Grandfather had a Polaroid Land Camera and I can remember that stuff you had to coat the picture with. If you didn't do it right, you get yellow steaks on the image, but at the time it was considered pretty 'high-speed, low drag' technology...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

wolfwalker said...

It's funny what kinds of things will break the suspension of disbelief, isn't it?

As a friend of mine once commented, "I'm willing to suspend my disbelief, but not hang it by the neck until dead."

Comrade Misfit said...

Ah, the SX-70, the home-porn-maker.

Drang said...

I need to write more.
Yes. Yes, you do.

Robin said...

I was a big James "Call me Dog" Ellroy fan but American Tabloid was really the end for me.

kahr40 said...

You might want to try Max Allan Collin's Nate Heller books. Good historical noir of the "what if" variety.

Montie said...

Dang Frank,

I'd of sworn I was a little YOUNGER than you. When I was a young teenager I HAD a Polaroid land Camera, first person, no recollections of any older relatives owning one. Oh, and I still have some of the photos I took with the thing. Those areas of yellow streaks from missed solution eventually fade into nothingness over time and if you failed to stick any to the backing cards, they are so tightly curled after 45 years or so that you can hardly unroll them.

Roberta X said...

Frank W. James: if you used that man as a character in a book, nobody would believe he could possibly be real. :)

My Dad used one of the older-style Polaroids (actually second-gen tech!) for years; he didn't update 'til the SX-70 came out.

I was still using B&W Polaroid/Tektronix 'scope cameras as recently as a decade ago. The replacement was a Sony computer-disc camera and a "custom" cardboard box to eliminated unwanted glare.

Sevesteen said...

For some reason the (U.S.) Ford Fairlane crops up as a new car 10 or more years after it was discontinued. The most recent place I've run into it is one of the Bob Lee Stagger books.