Story - The Murder of Ramon Vasquez...

Discussion in 'All things Bukowski' started by poptop, Jul 30, 2008.

  1. ... from Erections, Ejaculations and Tales of Ordinary Madness. This is one of the most disturbing short stories I've ever read because of its raw, unvarnished brutality - the reader is spared nothing of the prolonged savagery, and it's an example of Bukowski drawing upon news events of the day to write it in his 1972 book. I came to the following conclusions on my own and not from some crappy biography...

    On October 30th, 1968, the silent film actor Ramon Novarro - who had turned to other business ventures, including real estate investments - was savagely tortured and beaten in his North Hollywood home by several young drifters. They had heard - in error - that he had thousands of dollars locked away somewhere in his home. They never found any money, and Ramon was discovered dead the next day (Halloween) by his servant.

    I view Bukowski's story as some form of creative exorcism of Novarro's soul from this brutal and savage experience and the portrayal of the dark side of human nature through Bukowski's amazing talent of becoming one with both the victim and the murderers artistically. In that sense, Bukowski had a certain way of having a "mediumistic" identification with the characters - a quality of identification that I have yet to find in other writers where you know they're writing about the horror without become one with the horror. Bukowski became at one with it by getting himself out of the way and placing himself in that terrible room with the participants through his genius of imagination.

    I'm glad to finally get this out of my system... because the story remains deeply disturbing even after all this time whenever I think of it and I never want to read the sickening thing again because it was like being there... Now carry on...
  2. Kind of like what Truman Capote did with "In Cold Blood". I remember reading that book back high school. Around the time that he had just died. Yeah that was disturbing to read. But it was the truth.
  3. Good comments, Poptop--Same thing with "The Fiend." I think because Buk was a victim of prolonged abuse as a child, he understood human cruelty in a very profound way.
  4. Gerard K H Love

    Gerard K H Love Appreciate your friends Men of Mayhem

    That's what I was thinking too. If you think about it he lived in cheap rented rooms and the others residents would mingle and drink together. He would have run accross some frustrated criminals who may have talked out the stress of their crimes to him. You know like getting it off their chest. Some people do like to talk about their crimes.
    When I first read Bukowski -Run with the Hunted collection- I found a story in there-The Life of a Bum about a guy who nearly kills someone who is very generous to him. I thought Bukowski must've actually done that.
    One detail was he did not call the main character Hank. He can write about how other people think and act in a very believable way. -the story is in Septagenerian Stew.
    His father was the first one to show him the dark and ugly side of humanity.
  5. I don't mean to piss on anyone's dark assumptions, but writers do just make shit up sometimes. You don't have to have heard or done or even previously thought something in order to type up an effectively creepy story.

    There's no doubt that Bukowski used his writing to exorcise his various and numerous demons. But a lot of the time he was just making shit up.
  6. mjp,

    you mean you never really bounced a baby on its soft, rubbery head to the chagrin of your guests?

    fiction. hmph. now I don't know what to believe.

    (btw, got the book, mon. ees good for read in bathroom. look for womens soon).
  7. Gerard K H Love

    Gerard K H Love Appreciate your friends Men of Mayhem

    You may be right, but a little first hand knowledge makes for a more believable story. Truman Capote spent a lot of time getting into the heads of some violent criminals in order to achieve the same end.
    I don't know about you but I've met some very dark and heartless bastards who should have been shot, and I will tell their sick little story some day. I too shall embellish the shit out of the story, but my sometimes first hand knowledge of their acts would make it believable- if I can write.
    Bukowski, as we all know, did that and he can write. Throwing a guy under a bus happened, but going to eat steaks afterwards is art. What do you say? Oh yeah, but what do I know.

    I was slowly typing and miised point exactly...I think he really did that too. :D
  8. Well, that really happened, sure. But all the poems about boring jobs - those I made up.

    ANNOUNCER: To read such completely fabricated stories as hollow, rubberlike thump, things like soap, anything for a quid and a harmless device, be sure to pick up Michael Phillips' alternative man today! Yes, the book is 13 years old, but it could well be ripped from today's headlines with its fascinating sociological observations and attempted witticisms. Buy several today!
  9. Good point. Yes, that's what's chilling about it. Bukowski has the ability to tell the truth about murder without being a murderer himself. It's sheer relentless brutality. Rare gift.

    Hi David,

    Oh, yes - The Fiend - another memorable story of that dark type... Like you say, being beaten for years on an insanely senseless but regular basis has to do something to the mind. Maybe it's easier then to go into the dark, dank corners of the potential evil that lurks in all of us. That's why the father probably has to start young enough so the beatings seem normal to the child, and the child accepts this as a natural and accepted part of life because there's no alternate reality...

    Maybe it's because of my own highly developed sense of fairness and justice, but if Bukowski's father had tried his beatings on me as his son - and he hadn't started earlier enough to fool me into thinking it was all perfectly swell, normal and okay - I would have rebelled and tried to kill the son of a bitch - I'm very resourceful and would have found a way. I would have made friends (or tried to) and found a way to get my mother out of there. That's why that sadistic joke of a man had to start early on both the wife and child and never let up until Bukowski stood up to him and his father reached the magic threshold of his own cowardice... All Bukowski probably had to do then was invert his father's terror and project it into his stories... So like he said somewhere, his father taught him how to write and Bukowski accepted evil as being a natural part of life. It is. Anyone of us could be murdered in our sleep tonight if some maniac heard that we had a nice wad of money stashed away somewhere.

    Anyway, I think you've nailed it that Bukowski understood the inevitability of human cruelty profoundly. And it shows the range of him as a human being and writer when these blood-soaked stories full of rape (including homosexual rape), torture and mayhem are contrasted with his acute sensitivity and tenderness of his wonderful cat poems. (I really didn't realize how wonderful they were until I read a batch of them together today.) The point being - and perhaps the value of this kind of dark writing - is that we have those same contrasts within ourselves and we get to watch them play out over the span of our lives whether we are a literary genius or not. The end. Best wishes.

    Thanks for the opportunity to clarify. Greatly appreciated. Most of the time Bukowski was just making his shit up. Of course he made it up. No one has suggested otherwise... But not always... and not that it ultimately matters, but you're wrong about this particular story, because there are too many exact parallels to the sensational murder of Ramon Novarro - a homosexual who invited two young men over to his house for sex who had heard wrong about his thousands on hand, and brutally tortured him for hours. That's Bukowski's story - he brought it to life. The story still has impact without knowing that, but the fact that a man actually died that way makes it, to me, particularly horrible and gruesome. It takes balls for a writer to use that. Balls. But then, if someone wasn't up on the life of a famous silent movie star, Noravvo, he wouldn't be able to connect the dots, would he?, and assume that others are simply projecting something onto the story that wasn't there; and then it becomes the outsider who's actually projecting onto them.

    In any case, whether this story is based on reality - which it is - wasn't the point of my initial post; it was Bukowski's ability to portray horror in a way that makes it appear that he might have been watching through a keyhole somewhere or that we might have been forced to watch the horror ourselves - and not be able to do a damn thing about it. That's what I call horror. In this case, it's a potent mixture of Bukowski's imagination and reality.

    You know as well as anyone that Bukowski would also get stories from people like his friend "Red," who Bukowski discusses on the Bukowski Tapes (Red's story about gutting the dog), stories used in Erections...

    The point being, for those who don't rush them through, these kinds of stories are written in a way as if he were witnessing the murder himself and the reader might wonder how Bukowski had such insight into evil and be able to portray is so dispassionately and graphically. How many f'n writers can do that? Of course what's really happening is that that potential for evil exists in all of us, under the right circumstances, but some of us just don't see it or care to admit it. On the other hand, you make a good point that someone could project something into a Bukowski story that was merely his dark imagination at work. Best wishes.

  10. Really? I don't find it particularly brave or daring. It's just a story.

    Along the same lines I don't believe that sending out stuff like The Fiend for publication was a particularly brave or daring move. It was calculated to create controversy and gain attention, and it did so quite effectively.

    But then, correct me if I'm wrong, you are the same poptop who said it took balls for Woody Allen to fuck his step daughter, right? So I think it's safe to say that our definitions of "balls" or bravery are very, very different.
  11. Readers can decide for themselves without your kind of help, or mine, either. (Sometimes there's a little too much help around here over something well-intended or humorous with no desire to offend)... What I said about Woody Allen wasn't exactly a complement - and he paid the price for it, didn't he?, which was the point I was making. It was an adult conversation, meant for adults, between Father Luke and myself about a controversial man who fell in love with his step-daughter, a conversation you probably weren't interested in anyway but were obligated to read as the keeper-of-the-people in-line. The use of balls was meant to be taken in that maturity of spirit... With Bukowski - not that it matters, it doesn't - I feel it's an entirely different situation, and while Bukowski indeed wrote to shock people to build up his readership, he pushed the limits in my opinion with TMRV and he could have written something entirely made out of the same cloth of 100 percent imagination if he'd wanted to - but he didn't in this instance, which was amply pointed out, with no agreement important at all if one actually knows the background of the case. It took balls to push the limits with the graphic reality he used - like being right in the room - if one has the ability to feel such things - he might have gotten sued by the Novarro estate... I come here for the consistently well-meaning people of good-will and Bukowski - and no one else.
  12. good god do you need an editor.
  13. Actually mjp is rather the tech here, and while he has moderator status, I rarely see him exercising it. On those rare occasions he does, two other moderators have final say. On the other hand, if mjp says or does something the other moderators have a problem with, he is called on the carpet. Right now.

    The truth is that adults don't involve anyone in an conversation as a shield. eh? So, if you wish to indirectly involve me, I shall have to step forward and be chosen.

    You called?

    As you ponder that, I would like to say that you are both right: It takes balls, and it is a story.

    Look at another example. When Bukowski wrote women he said, paraphrasing, that this is going to effect a lot of people. He took the risk and wrote the story.

    Less filling - Tastes great?
  14. Bukowski wrote stories which were more gruesome than "The Fiend" -such as "Christ with a Barbecue Sauce" or the infamous "The Hog"- and I don't think it was a brave (or non-brave) move on his part. He just kept the shit flowing, as he used to say. Submitting those stories to the skin mags was only normal, methinks.
  15. Why did you emphasize "step-daughter"? Are you insinuating that the "step" prefix makes it okay? Or that because he never married Farrow it was okay?

    I just want to understand what your justification is. At what point you believe it's okay to fuck your partner's daughter. I would be of the opinion that it's never okay, but we obviously disagree. I am just trying to understand you so we can be friends.
  16. funny story...

    I was walking down the street just south of Central Park one night, minding my own business. I got to the corner and thought I heard a voice that sounded very familiar, but I could not place it...just as I turned the corner a couple was coming around from the opposite way and we all bumped into each other. It was Woody and Soon Yi. She was laughing and he was looking as neurotic as ever. I excused myself and walked on. He ran and hid in the limo that was idling nearby.

    The guy's been in freudian psycho-analytic therapy for 40 years or more. A lot of good it has done him. I wonder what the doctor said when he told him/her he was screwing his adopted daughter.
  17. Hustler Interview

    There's a revealing interview that Bukowski did for Hustler back in '76 that says the same thing I was trying to get at when I mentioned Bukowski's way of becoming one with the criminal mind. I recently came upon it (thanks to cirerita):

    From the Interview:

    Bukowski writes his life in stark black and white, with no frills. There's nothing for the reader to hide behind. His story, The Fiend (11/76, Hustler), is the brutally realistic account of the senseless rape of an eight-year-old child. The story was told so convincingly that many of the staff members were quite interested in meeting the man capable of creating such a striking horror.

    For the most part, we enjoyed what he had to say, but it's necessary that we let you know at the beginning that even we can't stomach his stand on fucking eight-year-olds. We're not sure that Bukowski can either. Like he told us, "You don't always speak the truth every time you talk."

    Bukowski goes on to say that he had to write the story, but he doesn't know why he wrote it.

    "I think the turn-on is that I write very simply. There's no literary floss covering what I write. That makes it very bare, and the very bareness affects people. You can write a very literary thing, and it doesn't offend too much. But when you write very simply, it affects people. They say, 'God, he's really doing it. It comes at them head-on.' "

    "When I write about rape and murder, I'm not trying to justify rape and murder. I'm trying to get inside the rapist's or murder's mind."



    For me, The Fiend and The Murder of Ramon Vasquez are Bukowski at his most chillingly effective. Some readers will see the connection between the story (if they look into it) and the death of Ramon Novarro, and some won't, but there are many parallels. (In real life, Novarro was brutally murderer because the murderers, brothers, were convinced that Novarro had $5000 stashed away. He didn't. But Novarro's luck may have run out with his casual encounters after having written 140 checks within the previous 6 months of his death to male prostitutes. In any event, he was brutally tortured over an agonizingly prolonged period of time and died by choking on his own blood...) Those facts don't necessarily matter in the appreciation of Bukowski's story. But I found it of great interest that it reveals how this particular story most likely came about and that it was not a product of pure invention; it was how Bukowski sometimes worked, in the same way that he said that he got some of his Erections stories from Red Strange.
  18. Having written features for them twice in 1999-2000, I don't trust Hustler's editorial stance on a damn thing. Just before I signed a contract for the first piece -- an expose at the time of "extreme" porn that was coming along in the mainstream in '98 (think Rob Black and Thom Zupko) -- a colleague told me, "Always keep a copy of your original MS in your portfolio; you will undoubtedly despise what your article looks like once it's been through the editorial wringer." Not only was my friend correct but the print versions of my features were so misogynistic and spiteful toward women that I have kept them completely out of my portfoilo (the disturbing artwork alone prohibited inclusion -- a graphic representation of a woman's nude torso being fed into a meat grinder atop a bald man's head while he regurgitates her colorful remains, all smack dab next to my goddamn by-line).
  19. in Screams from the Balcony, page 49, a short story called "the murder" is mentioned. it says that it was published in Notes From Underground #1, 1964. does anyone know if it's the same as the Ramon Vasquez story or is it possibly a different story? the datablase only turned up "the murder of r.v.".
    does anyone have Notes #1?

    not the cheapest one, but it mentions "the murder" in the contents description...
  20. No, it's a different story.
  21. has it been reprinted since 1964? i would really like to read it...

    excerpt from screams, page 49:
    "it might interest you to know that over drinks and in conversational lulls with the few odd people that get in here i have told the story of "the murder", first telling them what made me write it, what was happening to me at the time, and how i took this and made it into a story--or whatever it is.
    their comment at the finish was usually,"jesus christ!," which i took more as a criticism than a vindication."
  22. I believe that "Murder" was printed later as "The Blanket" which is the last story in "Erections." I'm not completely positive of this, but I seem to recall coming across the 1964 story and then discovering it was the same story with a different title published later as "The Blanket."
  23. Does anyone know where I can get this book? I would absolutely love to read it and can't find it anywhere!
  24. The story you're looking for is in the book at that link.

    But I probably should have clarified that the book mentioned in the first post, Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness,[​IMG] was split into two books after the first publication back in the 60s: The Most Beautiful Woman In Town And Other Stories[​IMG] and Tales Of Ordinary Madness[​IMG].

    So if you want to get the complete version of Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness,[​IMG] you need both of those books. Or of course you can go find the original version of Erections, but being long out of print it will cost more than the other two books.

    For what it's worth.

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