Edited by Crime Factory Publications – In the annals of movie tough guys, few stand equal with Lee Marvin. Winner of an Oscar in 1965 for Cat Ballou, a comedic western, Marvin was a more versatile actor than most remember. But it’s a good thing for the new anthology Lee that we remember him most as a tough guy.
Editor and, in the spirit of full disclosure, CFL contributor, Andrew Nette has assembled 17 stories from the cream of the crop of recent pulp writers. The stories trace Lee Marvin’s career from his time in the marines during WWII through all of his best loved movies: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Point Blank, Paint Your Wagon – and the movie Marvin didn’t join, Jaws.
Along the way, we’re treated to a great many adventures that Lee Marvin probably didn’t have, but there are several biographies of Marvin if that’s the sort of thing you’re interested in. Lee isn’t one of them, and doesn’t pretend to be. This anthology aims to take the larger-than-life mythos surrounding Lee Marvin and make it even bigger.
This is a solid collection of stories, but in any anthology some entries are just bound to stand out. Some of these stories would stand very well on their own in any pulp collection if you changed the protagonist to something other than Lee Marvin, and others are more dependent on the context of Marvin’s life and career. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), the best stories tend to be the ones that take some facet of Marvin’s personality or persona and use him as a device to tell a more general pulp tale, rather than the stories linked with Marvin’s movies, co-stars, etc. Some of the latter may be harder to follow if you’re not very familiar with post-War American cinema.
Jake Hinkson’s Out on the 101 is a timeless pulp tale with a young and naïve Lee Marvin. This may seem incongruous with the actor’s in-charge persona, but it works – probably because we can see Lee Marvin in such a role. Hinkson’s Lee is promised profits by a femme fatale, but the payoff isn’t quite what he expected.
Another Day in the Sun by Erik Lundy is a geriatric grindhouse revenge fantasy that has Lee Marvin busting out of a nursing home to retake his own home from his mooching son and daughter-in-law. I know next to nothing about his kin, but Lundy’s avenging angel fantasy is just that, and the gruff-yet-lurid tone makes Dirty Harry look like a wuss.
The stories in this anthology are fictional, but most of them are plausible enough that you’ll end up scratching your head and wondering whether this really happened. The devil-may-care hijinks in this volume suit pulp fiction just fine, and probably would have suited Lee Marvin, also. You get the sense that Marvin may or may not have done these things, but he would have liked to say he did. And that’s the highest compliment you can pay a collection of tall tales like Lee.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars