Monday, February 20, 2012

Guest Blogger Colin Campbell



I’ve been trying this for years and always failed miserably. So, here’s a question that should cause some debate. What exactly is COOL? Apart from Yorkshire in February, which isn’t so much cool as bloody cold. Brass-monkey weather. (Google it.) When it comes to the movies however there are plenty of examples, starting with the undisputed king of cool, Steve McQueen.

McQueen earned that title with a hat trick of performances in three smash hit films. First up he out-cooled the other six in The Magnificent Seven. Riding shotgun on a hearse set the scene. Few words. Not many actions. Just fiddling with his hat or checking the load of his shotgun. He stole the movie from Yul Brynner. Then there was the aptly named cooler king in The Great Escape. Sitting with his back to the wall as he bounced a ball into his baseball glove. Classic. Not to mention the motorbike jump. The role that cemented him as an icon of cool though was the rogue cop in Bullitt. Need I say more? Paired down dialogue. That car chase. And one of the coolest theme tunes in cinema history. Case proved.

My second example is Clint Eastwood. Another man of few words.  He had an economy of movement that earned him the tag of the walking somnambulist. From The Man With No Name to Dirty Harry. A thousand-mile stare and more great theme tunes.  An aside here. My early attempts at being cool involved cutting a hole in a blanket and wearing it as a poncho. Didn’t endear me to my mum very much. That and the condoms in the guttering above the bedroom window. Aside over.

There are other examples of course but I’ll restrict myself to just one more. Bond. James Bond. Not all of them. Just Sean Connery at the height of his fame. Mainly in Goldfinger. To this day I can’t drive my car without flicking the gear lever top to reveal the little red button. In my imagination. Back in the day the Odeon cinema in Leeds had marble stairs down to the toilets. Restrooms for you Americans. Smoked glass mirrors on the walls. I don’t think I ever went for a leak without my shoes sounding like 007’s footsteps echoing around Fort Knox.

What about literature I hear you ask? Well two people spring to mind. When I try to be cool, at conventions or on panels, I always fall short of the author who makes it all seem so effortless. Lee Child. He never gives the same interview twice and he always sounds so damn laid back. Like Reacher without the broken bones. And he’s tall too. At least I’ve got that going for me. In fact if there’s one thing all the above have in common it’s that they’re not short. I can’t recall too many cool dude midgets. Although Peter Dinklage was pretty good in Game Of Thrones and the hilarious In Bruges. No, to be cool I think you’ve got to have the languid movement that only comes with height. None of that powerhouse small man’s syndrome. Like a mate of mine said at my first job. “Big man, big cock. Little man, ALL cock.” Of course he was fairly short himself.

The other cool author? Elmore Leonard. I don’t know about in person but his dialogue drips cool. It’s even translated into some cool movies. Think Get Shorty and Out Of Sight. Those films gave John Travolta and George Clooney their biggest stabs at being cool. It’s even worked for Timothy Olyphant on TV in Justified. If he could just stop walking like a girl. In fact when I’m writing dialogue for my Jim Grant novels it’s always Olyphant I hear reading the lines in my head. So maybe that’s my best shot at being cool. Stealing it from the man who wrote the sequel to Get Shorty. Be Cool. Brass monkeys or not.

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