Kenn Davis and John Stanley’s collaboration

NIGHTMARE IN BLOOD, dvd cover

The Dark Side
By Kenn Davis and John Stanley, introduction of Carver Bascombe

 

Kenn Davis and John Stanley had a friendship that spanned many years and hundreds of ideas, some saw fruition and some died by the wayside.  They were an odd pair: John with a calm and steady demeanor, well versed in writing a newspaper column which takes organization inspiration.  Then there was Kenn whose mind was everywhere at once.  He wasn’t happy being a surrealist painter and working at the Chronicle for a living, he itched for more even though there were no more hours in the day.  He loved cameras, he loved mysteries and was an avid reader of them since childhood.   He saw some wonderlust in John’s eyes because someone talked someone into their first collaboration.  And they were off:  It took two white guys from the San Francisco Chronicle in the 70s to come up with a detective who was a black, Vietnam Vet who loved the arts and wore Brione suits(be serious)….  something for both writer, I guess.  It was the right time for this character because it was “black exploitation time” in Hollywood.  So the jumped on the bandwagon and though the cover joined the exploitation, showing a super fly type character, the Carver Bascombe that was inside the cover showed no similarity.  He was cool, well dressed, well read and listened to classical music..  a black man who would set no fear in the hearts of white readers.  Almost as good as our President but with no African name to encumber him.

John and Kenn sold the book to Avon and it did pretty wee but John wasn’t interested in going any further with it.  Kenn went and got a multiple book deal and kept right on writing… the books kept coming and the further away from the black exploitation of the 70′s he got the better the book were.  He received a Mystery Writer’s of America Nomination for the Best Original Paperback for “Melting Point.”   Each book took on a different aspect of the art world and Kenn actually made sure that readers learned something about that world.  Late in the series,  all of the books were published France and did quite well… in fact they sold better than in the U.S. market. 

John Stanley and Kenn Davis collaborated on one more book and that was “Bogart.”  An action thriller using Humphrey Bogart as the main character.  They did try to write a treatment to see if they could get a screenplay written for the book.  I’ve never heard what happened with that.

John Stanley is a much better source than me for tales of making “Nightmare in Blood” which has become  a minor cult classic as horror movies go.  It’s out on DVD and is a hoot for horror buffs and Creature Feature buffs.  If you remember hanging with Bob Wilkins and later, John Stanley hosting Creature Features on Channel 2 in the Bay Area, you’ll want to see this movie.

John had Kenn do many book covers for him on his “Creature Feature” books and the drawing inside which Kenn loved doing.  He also did covers for other books that John published in his own publishing company.  John, obviously, like Kenn could never be satisfied doing one thing.  The last projects they worked on was mainly promotion for the new DVD for Nightmare In Blood when it came out.

I thought it was best to have John Stanley say something in his own words about their work together… plus John wrote Kenn’s obituary for the San Francisco Chronicle which is at the end of this blog today.

Kenn Davis  1932 - 2010

American Surrealist

 

 

 

…………
Hi Creature Features fans. Thanks for remembering the good old days. Well, last week my collaborator on the horror-satire film NIGHTMARE IN BLOOD, and the fella who helped me to write the novel BOGART ’48, died. He was Kenn Davis, also a well known surrealism oil painter. An obit is in the S. F. Chronicle for Tuesday but here’s my version, which is a little different. My thanks once again to devoted fan BOBBY CANNON for helping get this help this morning. Kenn and I worked at the San Francisco Chronicle together for many years, and he was a great Creature Features fan like so many of you. More about Kenn can be found on my website www.stanleybooks.net by reading some of my material about the books I wrote. Kenn and I created the black private eye Carver Bascombe, nominated for an Edgar award with the publication of the first book THE DARK SIDE. NIGHTMARE IN BLOOD, ironically, features a TV horror host inspired by Bob Wilkins. Bob allowed us to film one night on his Channel 2 KTVU set and it appears in two sequences in the film. Bob himself appears in some scenes shot in front of the Fox Theater in Oakland in 1973.  The film is available on DVD widescreen Techniscope through Image Entertainment. — John Stanley

 
Kenn Allan Davis, for 21 years a photo retoucher and illustrator in the San Francisco Chronicle’s art department, died of heart failure at the age of 78 on Tuesday night (Jan. 12) at his home in Roseville. Davis, born in Salinas and raised in the Bay Area, served in Korea with the U.S. Army in the closing days of the war. In the late 1950s he blended into the North Beach life-style, becoming a devoted artist-painter who specialized in surrealistic landscapes and other bizarre art designed to “disconcert and stimulate.” His oil paintings appeared in Bay Area galleries as well as exhibits in New York, Chicago, Boston and Dallas. Samples of his unusual work can be found at www.KennDavis-art.com.
During his Chronicle years as an artist, 1964-1985, Davis was appreciated for his swiftness at creating original pen-and-ink sketches. Inspired by his brother Zakiel Marko, a professional TV scriptwriter (“Kolchak,” “Toma”), Davis formed a collaboration with Chronicle entertainment writer John Stanley to co-author the 1976 Avon paperback “The Dark Side,” a San Francisco-based mystery featuring black private eye Carver Bascombe. Nominated for the Edgar Award, the book was followed by seven more Bascombe mysteries, written solely by Davis. One of those novels, “Melting Point,” was nominated for the Shamus Award in 1986.
Davis and Stanley also co-wrote and co-produced the 1978 horror satire “Nightmare in Blood,” filmed in large part at the Fox Theater in Oakland and historically the last feature to be shot in wide-screen Techniscope. In 1980 their final collaboration “Bogart ’48,” a mystery novel dramatizing several days in the life of movie icon Humphrey Bogart and close friend Peter Lorre as they attempt to solve a murder, was published by Dell and became a popular paperback.
Davis is survived by his wife of 26 years,  Elizabeth Calkins Davis of Roseville; his former wife of 20 years,  Lauretta Battle Davis of Pacifica; niece Belle Marko of San Anselmo; niece Zefra Marko of Forest Knolls; stepson Philip Hennen of Oakland; and stepson Brett Hennen of Roseville.  His brother Zekial Marko and daughter Christina had passed away in 2009.

Read more: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=461699744&blogId=526408679#ixzz12eDWOqRq

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EARLY SKETCHES OF RICHARD BRAUTIGAN BY KENN DAVIS

Richard Brautigan and Ferlinghetti at City Lights Bookstore

Richard Brautigan and Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights Bookstore

Brautigan On The Cliff, oil/lin

Brautigan On The Cliff detail

Richard Brautigan and Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights Bookstore
A compilation of several small pencil drawings of Richard and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In actuality, the two of them never actually stood together long enough for me to draw them. Ferlinghetti, as I recall, was not appreciative of Richard’s poetry; it was not socialistic enough. So this drawing is a put-together in my imagination.    
 
 

Richard Brautigan having Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista

Richard at the Buena Vista Cafe, drinking an Irish Coffee. A San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Stanton Delaplane, introduced Irish Coffee to the United States; Delaplane had first drunk it at an airport in Ireland and loved it. Later on, when I worked at the Chronicle, I introduced Richard to Delaplane. Irish Coffee was the bonding topic.    
 
 

Brautigan reading his works aloud at The Place on Blabbermouth Night

Richard reading at The Place, at Blabbermouth Night. He did this several times as I recall, ad did Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Bob Kaufman, and many others. This is a recreation from many scribbled pencil thumbnail drawings I did at the time. This is before Richard was published, but possibly around the time he was working on The Galilee HitchHiker.  Many a great work was hatched in this venue.    
 
 

Richard Brautigan on one of our several trips to Big Sur

Richard, like most creative people needed a lot of alone time for creativity.  My subject mostly came in dreams but the colors came while I was awake… Richard’s writing was created only during waking hours with the ability to close out the unnecessary.    

Richard Brautigan loved the Cleveland Wrecking Yard

Never had I imagined upon introducing Richard to the Cleveland Wrecking Yard that he would become so fascinated with its enormous supply of used tubs, sinks and toilets.  He returned to walk among its contents many times and then included it in his book, “Trout  Fishing In America.”    

Brautigan and Uronovitz, "Birds of a Feather" by Kenn Davis

Richard and Bernie Uranovitz. This is a bit of fantasy on my part as I sometimes put wings on my figures in my paintings, and not always of feathers but other material too.  This was just one of my little puns.    
 
 

Richard Brautigan in one of his happiest moments

Richard fishing in the North Fork of the Yuba River, in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  He was never happier.  I knew that someday that he’d leave the city behind him.    
 
 

Studies of Brautigan for future painting ideas that I had

This is similar to many that I have made of possible scribbles of painting ideas that I have sometimes painted. I painted Richard out on the edge of a cliff, a kind of comment about his poetry/art. The original painting was purchased by a collector in New Orleans who has since donated it to the Wiregrass Museum in Dothan, Alabama.  The finished painting plus a close-up is shown at the top of the blog. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the descriptions here were in Kenn’s own words with a very few additions by moi.  I am appreciative to editor John F. Barber who so kindly let me use this material after he’d purchased it from Kenn for his own book that has been published.  Please seek out a copy of it… “Richard Brautigan, Essays on The Writings And Life”, edited by John F. Barber, published by McFarland and Co.    
Until next time, or as Roy Rogers used to say “Until we meet again, happy trails to you.”  Kenn would have loved that.    
    
 

 

"Brautigan At The End Of His Wits" Oil/Lin Kenn Davis

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KENN DAVIS AND RICHARD BRAUTIGAN CONTINUED

   

"Lay The Marble Tea" cover by Kenn Davis

Brautigan asked me to do the cover art for The Galilee Hitch-Hiker and Lay the Marble Tea, which I was glad to do. I also helped Dick design the interior of Lay the Marble Tea.  

Dick called and said “Ron Loewinsohn wants to put out a chapbook of my poetry” and asked me to work on the cover.  That was The Galilee Hitch-Hiker.  Dick wanted something  I suggested a photograph but he said no. So I read the contents and some of the poems sparked an interest with their mention of a Ferris wheel and a carnival.  I drew a quick sketch of a carnival and Ferris wheel Dick liked it and so did Ron.   I wanted to clean it up, make it better but they both said no, they liked the rough look.  

White Rabbit Press had no binding capabilities, so the printed contents of The Galilee Hitch-Hiker were delivered to Brautigan. “Dick and Virginia Alder, Brautigan’s first wife, and I sat around and needle and threaded the copies together, drinking wine and yakking.” Next was the problem of distribution. “City Lights would take a few, but we needed to find other ways to sell the book. One day Dick, Ginny, and I wanted to see the movie Room at the Top with Lawrence Harvey which was playing at the Larkin Theater. Together we had maybe a buck. So I took a handful of the books and started hawking them to tourists on the streets of North Beach. ‘Right here,’ I’d say, ‘this is the genuine thing. Real Beat poetry. Get it right here.’ It worked. I sold eight to ten copies including one to a traffic cop who, I think, just wanted to get me off the street. We had enough money for the movie but not transportation. We walked from North Beach, through the North Beach Tunnel, over to Larkin Street and then to the movie theatre. We enjoyed the movie. I mentioned some kind of odd connection between White Rabbit and Harvey the imaginary rabbit of stage and film name; Dick and Ginny liked the surreal idea.  

After that Dick preferred to use photography for his covers, starting with The Octopus Frontier. At that time I admit I was a bit disappointed, not to say hurt, but it was his choice. We often discussed the cost of doing covers in color, with me painting an original, but the expense in those days always stopped us.  

That whole North Beach scene was more of a literary movement, rather than an artist’s movement, but there were many truly gifted artists around. Like me, many, or most of them, never became famous or infamous. Which was fine by me because I could develop without any heavy scrutiny. Richard felt the same way, and often mentioned that life changed once he was published and known.  

In many ways I knew then that I was in the midst of many talents, whether they were considered part of the so-called Beat Generation or not.  

I drew many pencil drawings of Richard Brautigan, as well as other people I knew in North Beach. However, I sensed at that time that Richard’s talent was unique, and I was fortunate in meeting him and being a friend.  

Why I drew these sketches is easy to explain: I decided early on that Brautigan was unique, and deserved some pen-and-ink and pencil respect, because I was certain the Richard would stand out from the many poets and prose writers that were around and in North Beach in those Beat Generation years.  

I realize that the history behind these sketches is also about me, but my friendship with Richard and Virginia Brautigan was so intertwined for almost 20 years—especially the years 1957 to about 1975—that it is practically impossible to write about them as exclusively of Richard.  

This ends the essay my husband wrote for the book, “Richard Brautigan, Essays On The Writings And Life” that was published in 2007 by McFarland and edited by John F. Barber, who had the talent and foresight to put this project together in time to have Kenn’s input.  I want to thank John Barber for his allowing me to use Kenn’s essay in total from his book.  He has also given me permission to include the sketches with Kenn’s descriptions.  I will show those in days to come because I have to scan the sketches still.  I hope you’ve all enjoyed this little adventure with Kenn and Brautigan.  I know I have.  

   

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KENN DAVIS and RICHARD BRAUTIGAN

Cover by Kenn Davis, "Richard Brautigan", Essays edited by John F. Barber

“Brautigan As A Young Artist” Portrait by Kenn Davis

 

      

Cover by Kenn Davis, “Richard Brautigan”, Essays edited by John F. Barber

   

 Kenn Davis and Richard Brautigan were the closest of friends during the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Kenn drew the covers for Brautigan’s poetry collections “The Galilee Hitchhiker” and “Lay The Marble Tea.”   Kenn also painted an original portrait of Brautigan for which Richard sat.   Kenn filled pads with pen and ink non-posed sketches that provided rare insights into the personal Brautigan, the man behind the author.  In this essay below that is published in John Barber’s book, Kenn Davis tells about his friendship with Brautigan and the background of his sketches.   I will share only most of the text here and the sketches at our next meeting.

SKETCHES OF RICHARD BRAUTIGAN  by Kenn Davis

  I met Richard Brautigan in late 1956 when I’d transferred to the San Francisco Art Institute from City College.  I had two one-man Art Shows by then and was living in North Beach.  One day an artist friend of mine named Mike Nathan called and said, “Hey, I have a new studio.”  It was a storefront on Green Street in North Beach (where else.)  I hurried over and Mike was there with his girlfriend and a tall, lanky blond who was acting very aloof.  Mike introduced us.  The man was Richard Brautigan.  Brautigan said he recognized my name because he’d seen one of my paintings somewhere.. We started talking about painters and writers and realized we had a lot in common.   We spent the rest of the day drinking wine and talking and agreed to meet again the following day and so it began.

We became good friends and shared many adventures and sometime in 1958 I rented a rundown cottage on a hill with a  window that allowed me a view of all of San Francisco.  I decided I needed a larger window for such a magnificent view.  A mile or so away was the Cleveland Wrecking Yard Company yard where all kinds of house salvage was stored.   I called Dick (Richard) and told him I was gong to inspect the Yard for inspiration and did he want to go with me–  so he came and  found the place fascinating and lo and behold he wrote about it in “Trout Fishing In America.”  I found out that Poets can find inspiration anywhere just like artists.  As it was,  I found a large window of my liking and we returned to my shack on the hill and installed it and now had an even clearer view of the wrecking yard.

As for fishing stories, the first time Dick and I went trout fishing was in the Sierras.  We caught our limit early in the morning, cooked and ate them, buried the bones deep and went fishing again.  We caught our limit again and ate them for dinner.  We did this for days, sometimes not particularly wanting to eat anymore trout.  I was never the fisherman that Dick was; he was the best because he loved it the most.

To be continued next time……..

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INTRODUCTION OF ART WEBSITE

oil on lin, done in the last year of Kenn Davis' life.

Announcing the opening of the Kenn Davis Art Website with 45 works on display.  Those that do not say “Private Collection” under them are for sale and you make contact the estate by email by using the form on the last page of the website.

Just go to    http://kenndavis-art.com

and enjoy the world of surrealist, Kenn Davis. 

I will be back blogging now… I was just waiting for the website to be finished before I resumed my chatter.  There is so much to cover and we’ve just skimmed the edges.   As you’ve noticed, I took one of my favorite Kenn Davis paintings and made a header out of it.  This is the painting that I own personally and I call it “Writer’s Block” which is not its real name but seems to me to capture the confusion on the man’s countenance.

Join me for a new set of blogs soon.

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK (via Kenn Davis Memorial Blog)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK Being in the realm of the "what's on my mind today" writer, I never promised you a linear story about my husband, Kenn Davis' life.  I haven't written for days because the subjects I wanted to write about were certainly not in order except in my own aging brain.  So let's just go with the flow and take things … Read More

via Kenn Davis Memorial Blog

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK

"New York, New York"

"New York, New York" painting by Kenn Davis 1986

Being in the realm of the “what’s on my mind today” writer, I never promised you a linear story about my husband, Kenn Davis’ life.  I haven’t written for days because the subjects I wanted to write about were certainly not in order except in my own aging brain.  So let’s just go with the flow and take things as they come.  Then we’ll all be happier about this task.

Kenn and I married in 1985.  I was 42 and he was 52.  it turned out that the difference in our ages served us well until now that I’m without him.  He had been married before for 20 years to a vastly intelligent woman who he loved dearly but their differences in life directions had torn them apart.  I met Kenn a couple of years after his divorce (and a few ladies after) so he was feeling ready to settle down although I don’t believe any artist admits that fact… they may admit that they need a keeper though.

We married under a large Pine tree at the “Top of The Horn”, my parents mountain home and my sons gave me away.  Then we began a road trip across country that I call the “Great Museum Discovery.”  There’s no one in the world better to introduce you to the great paintings of the world than the late Kenn Davis.  We kriss crossed the U.S. not missing a worthwhile art piece or exhibit.  I was so excited that I never once noticed my swollen feet or complained of our lost lunches.

At the end of this trip was New York City where we stayed at the Wales Hotel for 2 weeks on the upper East Side where Kenn’s brother (down on jobs at the moment) just happened to be the desk manager.  We stayed there while we were looking for a winter rental far out on Long Island as we could get.  We ended up in Great River on the water which was good enough for me and not far from the Hamptons for fun side trips.

The owner of the Wales Hotel had already commissioned Kenn to paint a large view of New York to be hung in his lobby, so we found a house with a Florida room that he immediately turned into a studio and started work. 

We made frequent trips to Manhattan and to galleries all over the end of Long Island.  I finally talked Kenn into doing some driftwood paintings for selling on the island and for once in his life he turned out paintings that were not from his dream but they were still surreal.  They still had that Kenn Davis flavor even though he hated them.  But the galleries took them with names like Montoch Master etc. and they sold.

Kenn never stopped being snooty about them; but I had proved something to him and in his own way, he showed he was proud of me.

All of this time, he continued work on the New York painting and it was fabulous.  He spent days in New york City taking photos from all different angles and in different lights… he wanted to paint the buildings so that you could see them together like you couldn’t in real life thereby being true to his style… bringing a surreal quality to the work even though it was commissioned.

When it was delivered by truck to the hotel, the owner was delighted and it hangs there today although the hotel has been sold.  Jackie Kennedy used to eat there in the famous first floor coffee shop often and Kenn (a great fan of hers) took great pleasure in knowing that she had to have seen it.

The pictures of painting had been lost to us for 15 years but my son just found them in our garage in a box of his brother’s things….how they got there we’ll never know… that story is lost to eternity too.

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