John Stanley’s new book, “The Gang That Shot Up Hollywood,” starts off with a bang — quite literally.
Not just any bang — one from the barrel of a .44 Magnum revolver fired by none other than Clint Eastwood, starring as “Dirty” Harry Callahan.
Stanley, who kept his finger on the pulse of the Bay Area entertainment scene for 33 years reporting at the San Francisco Chronicle, interviewed and wrote about some of the most legendary stars and personalities of the silver screen.
It was during this prolific time period that Stanley found himself on location with Eastwood and company filming the tense finale to 1971’s “Dirty Harry,” where the gritty detective finally shoots down the villain Scorpio, a day recalled in vivid detail in the book’s first chapter.
“Eastwood was the inspiration for the book,” says Stanley, who went on to interview the actor and director several times over the course of his career.
Initially, Stanley thought about writing a book solely on Eastwood. But while going through his many scrapbooks, he found he had a wealth of similarly themed material, and he decided to tackle a more expansive topic.
“In essence, he opened doors to other stories in which he was related — I had forgotten 99 percent of them,” Stanley says. “It’s very strange; enough years have gone by that I am now able to read a story totally objectively. I can savor it and enjoy it. Almost every story was a pleasant surprise.”
While combing through his extensive personal archive, Stanley rounded up the best interviews, articles and more than 700 photographs from his long career, some of which he rewrote or enhanced to create “The Gang That Shot Up Hollywood.” The book focuses on tough-guy actors and alluring femme fatales from classic Hollywood’s action and film noir genres.
In addition to Eastwood, James Stewart, Jane Russell, Karl Malden, Robert Mitchum and Lauren Bacall are included in the book, sharing thoughts about their work and behind-the-scenes stories.
“I’ve had these interviews here all these years and I kind of looked upon it as a legacy as a journalist,” says Stanley, who lives in Pacifica.
“I took my old interviews and I tried to give them a new perspective, so that the stories would seem fresh,” adds Stanley. “I tried to write them in a way that was very personable so the reader could follow along with me, and hopefully enjoy these personalities the same way I did.”
The Gang That Shot Up Hollywood
Written by John Stanley
Published by Atlas Books