Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Album Review : “Cedar + Gold” by Tristan Prettyman

The California surfer girl hailing from San Diego is back with her fourth album of raw, emotionally wrenching songs. Armed with a dusky alto voice capable of ranging as far as the emptiness of lonely can go, with Cedar + Gold she delivers an album of alt-rock/folk/country that her fans have been waiting a long 4 years to hear.


With her first three recordings, 2003's Love Ep , 2005's Twentythree (Dig) which delivered the hit, “Love, Love, Love” and 2008's Hello , Prettyman parlayed her talent and laid-back surfer-girl-from-San Diego charm into an eight-year career studded with highlights that included Hello's No. 2 position on the iTunes Digital Albums chart and headlining tours across the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Instead of racing back to the studio, Prettyman took an extended break during which she traveled the globe, had vocal cord surgery, ended an engagement, and questioned whether she even wanted to be a musician at all.

Thankfully, the answer to that soul searching question was yes. These tunes examine those highs and lows, the loss and redemption. "I started writing from a place that was so deep and honest, where I didn't hold anything back," she says. "It felt so good. I was like, 'This is what music is about - being able to release what is trapped inside of you.' Whenever anything caused me pain, I'd tell myself, 'Save it for the record.'"

Prettyman enlisted producer Greg Wells (Adele, Katy Perry) who plays piano, bass, drums, and some guitar on the album. "Greg forced me to step into really being a musician and owning what I do," she says. "Once I did that, I got super creative and the songs started coming from a different place. It was a very intuitive process." The first single hit the radio in July, "My Oh My," opens with a lo-fi, reverb tinged shuffle that is infectious. The tune moderates the ‘breakup album’ feel by delivering a song about someone who still raises your pulse rate, and you playing that game, have your fun, even though you know it’s over and nothing good can come from it.

“My Oh My” Tristan Prettyman from the album “Cedar + Gold” 9/25/12

During that four year hiatus, Prettyman traveled to Bali, Australia and Europe where she says, “I just went crazy.” She also got engaged for a second time to fellow musician and San Diegan Jason Mraz  who had a hit single with "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)", in 2002. His second album, Mr. A-Z peaked at number 5 in 2005. A musical match made in heaven, but unfortunately it didn’t last. He broke off the engagement in 2011 and you don’t have to listen too closely to Cedar + Gold to guess the subject matter of a number of the songs.

The poet Charles Bukowski said, “what matters most is how well you walk through the fire” Tristan Prettyman walk through the fire to make Cedar + Gold . With an artistry that lies in her songwriting and the finely wrought lyrical details and emotionally raw vocal performances, Prettyman pulls no punches and spares no one, including herself on songs like “Say Anything,” “I Was Gonna Marry You,” “Come Clean,” “Glass Jar,” and “Never Say Never,”

“Never Say Never” Tristan Prettyman from the album “Cedar + Gold”

Prettyman wrote several of the songs with Dave Hodges, whom she first met the morning after a particularly emotional night. “I go meet Dave and I’m late and I’m crying,” she says. “I’m just a ball of snot, like, ‘Hi, I’m Tristan and I’m a mess.’” That session yielded the completion of the album’s opening track “Say Anything” — an open-hearted tune about finding freedom in letting go. The second session resulted in the no-holds-barred “I Was Gonna Marry You.” “It was like, ‘Wow, I’m getting really transparent here and being really specific,’” Prettyman recalls. “But once I walked through the door of honesty there was no telling where I was going. I’d never spoken out before about the way it really was, but I found myself saying ‘Screw it, I’m going to tell the whole story.’”

Other songs tempering the loss and ache are the sexy, hot “Bad Drug,” and the bouncy light-hearted “Rebound”. The album closes out with a jewel of a song, “Never Say Never” a heartbreaking ballad about a love that just doesn’t work out. It ends with an outro that acts as a coda for the whole album: “You can’t start a fire in the pouring rain.”

Cedar + Gold manages to be both an emotionally deep album and a very accessible and easy to identify with collection of songs. Amongst the rubble of a relationship lies hope that is ready to walk through that fire somewhat intact, if not unscathed. Prettyman is an introspective songwriter and possesses a voice that covers the whole range of human emotion. She melds all that into songs that can be very commercially successful while still not compromising artistic integrity. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait four more years for her next offering.

  • Audio CD (October 2, 2012) Original Release Date: 2012 Number of Discs: 1 Label: Capitol ASIN: B008U6QA0U
  • Also Available in: Audio CD | MP3 Music


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

EP Review: “Anna Cate” by Anna Cate

With a breathy, gentle dreamy voice combined with a unique instrument in an alternative –folk/pop setting - The Harp. That’s right a virtuoso harp pop songstress. It’s seductive. It’ll lure you in and mesmerize you. It’s ethereal. From the very first notes of “This Old Radio” the instrument gives you a Morpheus-ride into the psyche and the soul of Anna Cate.

ANNA-CATE-COVERBased out of Seattle, Anna Cate is her debut offering. A classically trained orchestra harpist she started writing songs on the harp. When she took the songs into a group setting she uses the harp in unique ways. The harp isn’t used out front on many of the tunes but more as an accompaniment instrument to add washes of color and embellishments to the other instruments. Nathan Yaccino plays piano, guitar, bass and drums as well as other percussion on the album. Phil Schawel plays some guitar, Phillip A. Peterson is on the cello and Todd Chuba also adds percussion. It works very well, and gives a surprising and welcome sound to the genre.

From a classical harpist, you would expect a lot of rolled chords and arpeggios which wouldn’t necessarily work in a pop/rock/alternative environment. As Cate explains, “Classical harpists rarely use repeated notes but I went ahead and repeated notes in creative ways, sometimes adding accents, sometimes muting the repeated notes for staccato effect.”

Anna Cate “This Old Radio”

She also makes great use of tempo and meter changes and shifting beats to ‘establish’ or adapt the instrument to the genre of music, instead of trying to play classical  music and call it pop. It’s a distinction the bares remembering.

The next two songs here are the pop gem, “The Raincloud Song” and Daydreaming”. “Raincloud” opens with the harp solo but it soon lays behind the other instruments to allow a very radio friendly pop song to emerge. “Daydreaming” is an up tempo ballad that features some of those repeating, staccato and muted notes she spoke about above. Both of these tunes were Cate’s first attempts at writing pop music on the harp, and one listen will tell you how successful the concept is.


“Your Arms” is the only song on the EP not written on the harp or produced by Nathan Yaccino (who also plays numerous instruments, as you can see above. He also arranged most of the songs and hand picked the instruments for the arrangements.) Cate’s also plays guitar and piano and wrote the tune on those instruments. “Full Circle” is a song she got the idea for while sitting in a crowded restaurant and overheard a conversation. That is also what the song is all about, and it’s rather tasty.

The final track is “The Letter” which makes very good use of the cello and ices the cake for this promising debut. The music is a welcome escape into an enchanting new realm of possibilities for alternative pop music.

When Anna Cate was only five years old, she saw a harp concert and became enchanted with the instrument. Soon she began taking lessons and, in the ensuing years, she became a proficient harpist. Trained in classical music, she began composing at a young age but didn’t engage in formal songwriting until college, when she began taking classes in the craft. “My composing took a definite shift in direction at this point, because I preferred pop music over classical,” she says. “Most of my past performance experience is classical,” she continues. “It’s been fun to transition into a genre where words add so much expression. I’m sure the classical performances carry over into my style. Although I have great respect and love for a lot of classical works, I wanted to be a part of a modern art form.” I’d say she is well on the way to being not only a part of a modern art form, but one of its rising stars.

  • Original Release Date: September 25, 2012 Label: Anna Cate Copyright: 2012 Anna Cate Total Length: 22:18 Genres:Alternative Rock ASIN: B00932NDQE

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Album Review: “Josh Doyle” by Josh Doyle


Josh Doyle, the founder of UK pop rock outfit The Dumdums has beat the odds and resurrected himself from the dust of yet another band that faded away after initial success. It’s not often the music business allows you a second chance, no matter how good you are. But this album, Josh Doyle, proves that talent, in the end will win out.

The Dumdums were  formed in 1997, the band spent their early years gigging in small venues. Behind the songwriting and vocal talent of Doyle , him and Steve Clarke - bass and vocals, and  Stuart 'Baxter' Wilkinson - drums and vocals, signed a management contract with Modernwood Management, and then signed to Wildstar Records in March 1999. The Dumdum’s debut single, "Everything", produced by Steve Power was released on 28 February 2000. The second single, "Can't Get You Out Of My Thoughts" was released on 26 June 2000 and reached number 18 in the UK chart. On 18 September 2000, their debut album, It goes without saying , again produced by Power, was released in the UK. It received favorable reviews from the music press, with the band being compared to Green Day, The Police, Blink 182, Elvis Costello and The Jam. A third single, "You Do Something To Me" was released a week prior to the album, and this reached number 27. The music video for this song, inspired by Queen's "I Want to Break Free" promo, featured Doyle and Wilkinson in drag. The song was used as the theme tune to the CBBC show Xchange, and they performed the song on the last episode of the series. Before they were done the album spawned
four UK Top 30 hits, earning them a supporting spot on tour with Robbie Williams. They supported Bon Jovi at Wembley Stadium and also performed at Glastonbury, T In The Park, V2000 and several roadshows and outdoor gigs organized by local radio stations.

The band went into the studio on three occasions in 2001, recording demo versions of the songs that would eventually comprise their second album, but before the album could be released the band split up. The story is as old as pop music. But Doyle, who wrote his first song at 13 wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.

Josh Doyle “I Figured The World Out”

Doyle relocated to Nashville and began crafting and independently releasing the EPs The End of Fear, Values and Virtues and Middletown, and Songs From The Nuclear War Vol. 1 & 2. In 2012, behind the strength of the song “I Figured The World Out",” Doyle won Guitar Center's Singer-Songwriter competition, beating out 17,000 competitors and receiving a three-song EP by Grammy Award-winning producer John Shanks.

This self-titled album, Josh Doyle acts as his solo debut, coming almost 12 years since he first tasted success in the music world. What we get are 10 marvelous tracks that really go beyond pop music. In fact, it’s hard to pigeon hole his music. It’s introspective. Wears its heart on its sleeve, and touches audiences on a very personal level. Doyle has a voice that expresses a range of emotions and his talents as a first class songwriter need no build up, just take a listen. In ways he reminds me of a young James Taylor in the way his music gets intimate with the listener. On other songs I am reminded of Jack Johnson or Dave Matthews. There’s no pretense here. Take a listen to “Solarstorms” the first single.

“Solarstorms” Josh Doyle

The album is worth the price on the strength of “Solarstorms” but that is not the only gem on the album. There are no throw aways here. The entire album is a display of tasty morsels of wow! “Swallow The World” is a tune about trying to “suffer the slings and arrows” of life and facing the fact that it can all get to be too much. “My Jerusalem” is a radio ready pop song that displays more of that personal songwriting talent and also some great arranging. The subject on this tune is facing your devils and winning out through your faith.

“This Transcendent Ache” is a love song about trying to find the meaning of being in love. “Is this road going anywhere, which path should I chose. I just want to know the future, because I am so confused.” “When Your Heart Can’t Make Up Its Mind” continues the theme of searching for love and how do you know…? “I Want To Break Your Mended Heart” has a catchy little guitar hook on this deeply personal alt rock tune that covers a wide range of emotion as the music builds to an angst ridden questioning. Take a listen:

“I Want To Break Your Mended Heart” Josh Doyle

With this album, Josh has seized the moment and is poised to make the best of this second chance by delivering an uncompromising set of songs. His songwriting talent is among the best. His performances of the material grab the listener from the moment he faces the mic. With big music business muscle behind him, and the best talent in the world backing him up, the next chapter is bound to be the greatest for Josh Doyle.

  • Original Release Date: October 23, 2012 Label: CTK Records/Corporate Ogre Records Copyright: CTK Records/Corporate Ogre Records Total Length: 38:27 Genres:Alternative Rock ASIN: B009MP69XG

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Diana Krall “Glad Rag Doll” World Tour: Two More Pre-Sales This Week

View this email with images
Add to Address Book

Forward To A Friend

Diana Krall

Diana Krall's 'glad rag doll world tour'!


Diana Krall

Diana Krall's 'Glad Rag Doll World Tour' is coming to the United States in support of her new album Glad Rag Doll. There are two dates that have not gone on-sale to the public yet:

4/2/13 - Adrienne Arsht Center (Miami, FL)
4/17/13 - Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts (Worcester, MA)

Pre-sale tickets for these two shows above go on sale tomorrow, WEDNESDAY, 10/31/12 at 10am - local via dianakrall.artistarena.com 

Please visit dianakrall.com for further information on the rest of the tour dates below (already on-sale to the public).

4/3/13 - Ruth Eckerd Hall (Clearwater, FL)
4/4/13 - Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall (Sarasota, FL)
4/6/13 - Durham Performing Arts Center (Durham, NC)
4/7/13 - Ovens Auditorium (Charlotte, NC)
4/9/13 - Heinz Hall (Pittsburgh, PA)
4/10/13 - Music Center at Strathmore (Bethesda, MD)
4/12/13 - New Jersey Performing Arts Center (Newark, NJ)
4/13/13 - Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa (Atlantic City, NJ)
4/14/13 - The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts (Hartford, CT)
4/16/13 - Grand Opera House (Wilmington, DE)
4/19/13 - Beacon Theatre (New York, NY)


Live on Later... With Jools Holland

Click here to watch Diana Krall perform live on BBC Two's Later... With Jools Holland. 

Diana Krall - Live on Later... With Jools Holland


The New Album, Glad Rag Doll


Diana Krall - Glad Rag Doll

The New Album,
Glad Rag Doll,
Available now at


Also available at:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Click here to Purchase an autographed copy of Glad Rag Doll!

*U.S. Only



dianakrall.com for more info

Monday, October 29, 2012

Writing Classes :Last Chance to Register for "The Spine of the Crime" Presented by David Corbett




David Corbett





Online 4-week Course through Litreactor

November 1-23, 2012

The Spine of Crime: Setting, Suspense, and Structure in Crime, Mystery, and Thriller Stories

Class Description: Building on my preceding course through Litreactor, The Character of Crime, I move from the Who of crime writing to the Where, What, and How. (The prior class is not a prerequisite for this course. The subject matter to be covered here stands alone.)

In this 4-week course and workshop, you'll learn the crucial role of setting in crime stories—perhaps the most setting-dependent genre in literature. You'll learn how to let suspense emerge not from coincidence but as a natural extension of character, context, and conflict. Last, you'll learn how to construct the "spine" of your story through structure, finishing up with an examination of the unique plot elements that characterize stories in the detective, crime, and thriller sub-genres.

Week 1—Setting: How to Ground your Theme, Characters, and Structure in Place

Whether your story takes place in a pastoral village or a skyscraper jungle, how people live in a specific place and time will define the nature and limits of what's deemed a crime, who gets called a criminal, and what stands for justice.

Week 2—Techniques of Suspense: Character, Conflict, and
Context—not Coincidence

The trick is always to make the reader keep turning pages. Creating suspense always requires a bit of legerdemain, but to do it well, you need to look deep inside your story, not rely on chance.

Week 3—Structure: Letting the Conflict Shape Your Story

Three-Act structure too often strands the writer in a meandering second act. By understanding structure as an outgrowth of character, plot points become meaningful events in your story's growing conflict, not just turnstiles in the plot.

Week 4—Structural Beats for Specific Sub-genre Types: Detective, Crime, Thriller

Each sub-genre has its own unique thematic emphasis, and that's reflected in the nature of the adversaries and the conflict they generate. Those variations result in unique structural emphases and expectations.

Goals Of This Class

  • Gain a working understanding of setting not just as physical space but as the ground from which character, theme, and structure emerge.
  • Learn to use setting to heighten conflict, elicit emotion, and reinforce structure.
  • Defy expectation through the use of suspense created through character, conflict, and context—not coincidence.
  • Develop a deeper understanding and working command of the interplay among character, setting, and structure, in order to construct more unique, surprising, and satisfying plots.


Student Appreciation for David Corbett:

The following is a small sample of student remarks in response to David Corbett's coursework:

  • "I LOVED this class. The best writing class I've ever taken. David rules."


  • "Awesome class. The material presented was perfect. Top-notch."


  • "Wow!"


  • "The class touched my soul—an experience of pure creativity."


  • "Hands down, the most enjoyable, beneficial course on writing I have ever taken, and I've taken many—both online and on campus."







topabout davidthe booksnews & eventsreadings and appearancesmediaseminars and classeshigh crimesbook groupcontactweekly commentary

Music News: Ran Blake and Aaron Hartley - Brando Noir Halloween concert in Boston Canceled


"Brando Noir," tonight's Halloween concert in Boston produced by Ran Blake and Aaron Hartley, has been postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. We'll let you know when it's rescheduled.

Pianist/composer/improviser Ran Blake and coproducer Aaron Hartley anticipate Hallowe'en with specimens of that most haunting genre, film noir. Now an annual tradition, this year's concert switches from a director focus to the work of an actor who brought the word "brooding" into everyday speech: Marlon Brando.

For more info on when the show will be rescheduled, please check the websites:

email: ran@ranblake.com web: http://www.ranblake.com


The Dirty Lowdown

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book Review: “On The Waterfront” by Budd Schulberg

No discussion of On the Waterfront, the novel, can be undertaken without at least mention of the movie. The book was highly praised when it was released in 1955, a year after the film received eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. On its own, the novels was a best seller.


Originally, the book was titled just Waterfront, it was no simple novelization of the film, “that bastard word for a bastard byproduct of Hollywood success”, as Budd Schulberg states in his Introduction in the 1987 edition. The book was compared to the works of Émile Zola and Theodore Dreiser by the critics because of its use of the ‘naturalist style’. The naturalist school featured detailed realism, that in this case, suggested that social conditions, heredity, and environment had inescapable force in shaping the characters that populate the book. The critics, after all the awards, praise and kudos the film received, were surprised that there was still so much to say than a 90 minute movie could suggest.

Originally inspired by a 24-part series of articles in the New York Sun by Malcolm Johnson, titled "Crime on the Waterfront," Budd Schulberg wrote a long piece for The Saturday Evening Post, titled “Father John Knows The Score”. Schulberg took an unorthodox approach to writing the screenplay by not spending a month or two, but literally years absorbing the unique atmosphere of the New York Waterfront. He hung out at the westside Manhattan and Jersey bars that were the unofficial headquarters of the waterfront racketeers and Irish and Italian “insoigents”. He spent nights drinking beer with longshore families in their $26.50 a month railroad flats. Along the way he interviewed longshore-union leaders and the outspoken labor priests from St. Xavier’s in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, one of which the book is dedicated to; Father John Corridan described as “a rangy, ruddy, fast-talking, chain-smoking, tough-minded, sometimes profane Kerryman”. A welcome antidote to the stereotypical Barry Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby “Fah-ther” that Hollywood was so fond of. Father Corridan’s speech was a unique blend of Hell’s Kitchen and  baseball slang and he expressed an encyclopedic knowledge of waterfront economics and man’s inhumanity to man.  This maverick priest was the Father John of Schulberg’s article for The Saturday Evening Post. Schulberg was surprised to find that just a few blocks west of comfortable watering holes like Sardi’s there was this entire world that the rest of Manhattan didn’t know existed.

Schulberg’s ‘escort’ or protector and his cover was one of Father John’s most staunch adherents, Little Arthur Browne, Brownie as he was known. Brownie was one of the standup “insoigents” in the Chelsea local run by the fat cats and their “pistoleros.” Brownie was probably the model for Runty Nolan of the book and Kayo Duggan of the film. Browne had been beaten up, had his nose flattened by “the cowboys” – the local union enforcers – been thrown through a skylight and even tossed in the river unconscious, all things that Runty endures in the book. Schulberg got most of the local dialect that he would write into the screenplay as well as the novel during Runty and his forays into the local bars which were, in places, ten to a block.

“On The Waterfront” Official Trailer

Schulberg had discussed with director Elia Kazan his research into the waterfront, and Kazan urged him to write a screenplay, which was thrown back in Schulberg and Kazan’s faces by one of Hollywood’s leading moguls. So, he set out after this to write a novel when some smarter Hollywood mogul accepted the screenplay. The film was made, after a few changes to the script, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. The film was an astounding success. Filmed over 36 days on location in various places in Hoboken, New Jersey, including the docks, workers' slum dwellings, bars, littered alleys and rooftops. Furthermore, some of the labor bosses goons in the film – Abe Simon as Barney, Tony Galento as Truck and Tami Mauriello as Tullio – were actual former professional heavyweight boxers. Terry Malloy's (Brando's) fight against corruption was in part modeled after whistle-blowing longshoreman Anthony DiVincenzo, who testified before a real-life Waterfront Commission on the facts of life on the Hoboken Docks and had suffered a degree of ostracism for his deed.

The historical context of the film and the book are rooted in the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) which was established from the ashes of 19th century labor unions that organized dockworkers. In 1895, the ILA grew to  adopt the Chicago (Great Lakes) Longshoremen’s Union ideals as a model and encompassed all of the U.S. and many Canadian longshoremen. By the turn of the 20th Century they became affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL). By 1916, the ILA had become based in The Port of New York, which took in all of the harbor shore, including New Jersey. In 1918 Joseph Ryan became the president of the ILA's "Atlantic Coast District." Joseph Ryan was elected International president in 1927 and it is him that the character of “Weeping” Willie Givens is based. Under Ryan’s leadership, the ILA had become corrupt and was affiliated with Mafia characters such as Albert Anastasia and the Irish gangs. By the late 1920s, Anastasia had become a top leader of the ILA, controlling six union local chapters in Brooklyn. The character of Tom McGovern in the film and movie were modeled on the mobster Anastasia and the like, and Anastasia’s Murder Inc. also figures promptly in both. Under the mobsters were the local union bosses; the Johnny Friendly of the story.

These corrupt men ruled “the greatest harbor of the greatest city of the greatest country in the world” and they ran it like their own private grab-bag. After the largely successful 83-day 1934 West Coast longshore strike, Pacific coast longshoremen, who had rebelled against Ryan's leadership,  first organizing the membership to reject the contract that Ryan had negotiated, then leading the strike over his objections, voted to secede from the ILA and join the Congress of Industrial Organizations as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Soon longshore locals in Baltimore (the 6th busiest port in the world) , The Great Lakes, New Orleans and everywhere else except the Port Of New York Harbor, had bolted.

“Karl Malden as Father Barry in On The Waterfront 1954

Longshoremen obtained work through a ‘shapeup’ in which bosses chose a workforce on a daily basis. Longshoremen often worked only a day or less per week as a consequence. Work was especially uncertain for those who unloaded trucks and ships and had to appeal to gangsters who controlled this work for employment. The ‘shapeup’ figures prominently in the story, as it lays out how the gangsters and local bosses controlled the work force. They got to pick and choose who worked to put bread on the table and who didn’t. Complain about anything ; safety – and longshore work was the most dangerous in the country and suffered more casualties than miners – pay, theft, literally anything and you did not get a work assignment. You kept your mouth shut and went along if you wanted to eat.

This also tended to tie the longshoremen to their neighborhood. If they moved, they wouldn’t get work anywhere else because they were ‘outsiders’. And naturally, the bosses made sure the workers didn’t earn enough to even consider moving. And when they’d be short on money, there were the loan sharks, who were also the same bosses, to lend you enough to feed your family at 10% interest per week. If you got behind they’d make sure you got your tag to work for a few days and have your pay-packet sent straight to the guy who hired you to pay your debt. The gangster went even further by owning or controlling (by providing protection) the local businesses. Then there was the ‘short gang’. If a crew of 22 was required to unload a ship and turn it around,  the bosses would ‘short gang’ the load. They’d only send 16 or 18 men to do the work, then charge the shipping company for the full 22, pocketing the wages from the ‘ghost’ 6 or 8 longshoremen. The gangsters even controlled the bars in the neighborhoods surrounded by the railroad flats (so called because the rooms were strung together back to back, like the cars of a train. You might enter a flat through the kitchen and to get to any other room in the apartment, you walked through one room to another).

The 1950s was a decade of turmoil and trauma for the ILA. Several sensationalist articles, like those published by Schulberg and Malcolm Johnson, were  printed in New York City newspapers and  focused on “alleged” rampant gangsterism on the City's waterfront. In 1953 Governor Thomas E. Dewey ordered his New York State Crime Commission to conduct a full investigation of the ILA. They in turn formed The Waterfront Commission of the New York Harbor which put a lot of pressure on Ryan and his gangster associates and eventually led to his resignation after the ILA was suspended by the AFL. It is during this period that the story – both the movie and the book – take place.

Set in the fictional port of Bohegan, NJ the story opens centered on Terry Malloy, a retired prize fighter who just goes along and has no real ambition other than to earn a few bucks to keep himself in beer and dames. Terry Malloy is a half-vicious hoodlum caught between the waterfront mob and a groping, anxious awakening of his conscience. But Terry’s inability to look into himself or to experience anything but the immediate pleasure or pain of life on the waterfront are nothing but sloth. Terry’s brother is Charley Malloy, the dockside lawyer and right hand man of Johnny Friendly, the local pier boss who exercises iron-fisted control of the waterfront. Terry is used to coax a popular dockworker, Joey Doyle, out to an ambush  preventing him from testifying against Friendly before the Crime Commission. Terry thinks that Friendly’s “pistorleros” – the men he keeps around him who are “on the muscle” - picked for three qualities or rather two of three qualities; they have to be rough or brainy AND loyal – are just going to put a scare in to Doyle, maybe work him over a little, but they throw Doyle off the roof. Terry resents being used as a tool in Joey's death but is still willing to play  "D and D" – deaf and dumb. Terry meets and is smitten by the murdered Joey Doyle's sister, Edie (Katie in the book) who has shamed "waterfront priest" Father Barry into fomenting action against the mob-controlled union. Father Berry convinces Runty Nolan (in the book, Kayo Duggan in the film) to testify after Father Barry's promise of unwavering support. Duggan is killed when Friendly get’s word of Runty’s agreement and his body thrown in the river. See the scene above with Karl Malden giving the speech when Runty/Kayo is pulled from the river. As Father Barry says, “In his mind the river and Johnny Friendly were one, endlessly dangerous and never sleeping.” Silent partners as it were.

“I could have been a contender”

Terry, tormented by his awakening conscience, increasingly leans toward testifying, Friendly decides that Terry must be killed unless Charley can coerce him into keeping quiet. Charley tries bribing Terry with a good job, and finally threatens him by holding a gun up against him, but recognizes he has failed to sway Terry, who places the blame for his own downward spiral on his well-off brother. In one of the most famous scenes in film history, Terry reminds Charley that if it had not been for the fixed fight, he “could’a been a contender”.

Charley gives Terry a gun and advises him to run. Friendly has been spying on the situation, so he has Charley murdered, his body hanged in an alley as bait to get at Terry. Terry sets out to shoot Friendly, but Father Barry obstructs that course of action and finally convinces Terry to fight Friendly by testifying.

The novel bares many differences from the film. Mainly, the film is centered on Terry Malloy, Marlon Brando’s character and is told almost entirely from Terry’s point of view. The novel, on the other hand, is narrated by Father Barry, and though Terry Malloy is a main character, he is but one of many. Schulberg stated the reason for this being the two “art forms” are very different. “Film is an art of high points. It should embrace five or six sequences, each upping the tension and mounting to a climax. In film,” he states, “there is no room for multiple points of view, for ‘digressions’ into complicated, contradictory character traits or an exploration of social background.” In short, the film must “act” and employ action where the novel can meander into things like background, motivation and historical context. The film, in Schulberg’s view, must go from significant episode to more significant episode.  So, the film makes no effort to explain the social background. It simply ‘shows’ the mob controlled docks, simply mentions the Water Front Crime Commission and gives no background of why it existed in the first place.

The novel does all of these things, and Father Barry in the novel art form, is the ideal narrator. Terry Malloy becomes, in the novel, just a single strand in the rope, a major strand among the characters to be sure, but not the central strand. The novel allows Schulberg to work ‘veins’ of the story, the social conditions, Father Barry’s inner dialog with himself as he wrestles with his conscience,  that the film could not. It allows the struggle of Father Barry’ as he weighs obedience to the church and his social responsibility to his flock  just as St Francis Xavier of Goa had to weigh his conscience against his Portuguese masters and martyring himself for the Hindu Pearl Divers being exploited by the European colonizers.

“On The Waterfront” Final scene

As good as the film is, which hardly need’s my support at this stage in life, the book is a more educational and deeper look into a place in time. It fleshes out the story in a way the film didn’t even try to, and makes for a great read with a basis in history. Although Schulberg as a novelist, is no Émile Zola or Theodore Dreiser and Schulberg claimed no membership in that great company, the novel is written in that tradition and deserves its place in the literary canon.

On the Waterfront is a powerful  retelling of an iconic American story that stands apart from the great film as an unforgettable vision of crime, politics, and class in the twentieth century. This eBook from Open Road Media features an illustrated biography of Budd Schulberg including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s estate.


  • File Size: 1789 KB Print Length: 336 pages Publisher: Open Road; Reprint edition (July 31, 2012) Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English ASIN: B008JVJJ4U Text-to-Speech: Enabled X-Ray: Not Enabled Lending: Enabled


Article first published as Book Review: On The Waterfront: A Novel by Budd Schulberg on Blogcritics.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved