Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Girls On the Run

I am reading THE SISTERS CHASE where two sisters are on the run. It seems like every book I read lately features girls on the run. This was true of SUNBURN (Lippman). This was also true in THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS (Robotham) and to some extent THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER.

Has it always been like this? In the past, were girls on the run so much in crime fiction.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Forgotten Movies: DEAD ZONE

Well, I have to say that this film really didn't work for me. Directed by David Cronenberg in 1983, it was the wrong director, the wrong actor, and perhaps made in the wrong era. Christopher Walken is too quirky from the get go due to his personal style to make this guy seem like someone who becomes quirky.
Plot: Walken, about to marry Brooke Adams and happy to teach school, gets into an accident, is in a coma for three years, and comes to as a person inhabiting the Dead Zone. He has the ability to see the future, which turns out to be a curse most of the time. The movie was too episodic for my taste. And Walken never is believable as the everyman. I did like the fact it was made in Niagara on the Lake, one of  my favorite places though. But the setting can only take you so far. I was bored rather than scared. Critics from VULTURE see this as one of the best King films. To me STAND BY ME, CARRIE and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION are the top three. What do you think?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Night Music


Summer camps are wondrous things. Kevin attended camps where he improved his guitar playing, built robots, learned to dive, sharpened hockey, baseball and tennis skills, made computer games, and sometimes just played. School of Rock has turned him into an avid guitar player. No doubt he will have a garage band. Hope he gets the President he deserves sooner rather than later.

Loved SUNBURN by Laura Lippman.(Not out yet).

Enjoyed my book group's discussion of Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance) How much I admire how hard these women work to get the most out of a book. The book group is in its 16th year and I hate to miss a meeting.

The Dream Cruise...40,000 classic cars and over a million people cruise Woodward Avenue from Detroit to Pontiac, perhaps a 20 mile stretch over the third Saturday in August. Although the events spill over into the days preceding it. They pitch tents, set up bleachers, set up food, and watch cars go by. The vast majority of cars (and perhaps spectators) are from the sixties to the eighties. But there are plenty of earlier ones to see. Living a block away from this now is mostly annoying. But I grew up with a father working in the car industry so cars are kinda in my blood.I sneaked over and watched in as it began on Saturday. Kind of thrilling.

 And Megan's birthday is on the eclipse today. We had a special necklace made to celebrate it. It's gold with a moon and two stars with peridots in them.

What about you?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

For Anyone in Australia Next Weekend


Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott is the award-winning author of eight novels, including The End of Everything, Dare Me and The Fever. She is also the author of The Street Was Mine, a study of hardboiled fiction and film noir. Her work has won or been nominated for the CWA Steel Dagger, the International Thriller Writers Award, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize and five Edgar awards. Currently, she is a staff writer on HBO’s new David Simon show The Deuce and is adapting two of her novels for television. Her latest novel is You Will Know Me.

Appearing in these sessions

Meet Megan AbbottMore
Binge CultureMore
Local Libraries: Megan AbbottMore
The Dark Side of WomanhoodMore
Available at Readings
You Will Know Me

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Night Music

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 18, 2017

(Something of a spoiler alert)

Nemesis by Philip Roth.

Nemesis is the story of a polio epidemic in Newark in 1944 and especially about its impact on a Mr. Canter, who runs a playground program and is about to become engaged.

Roth does an excellent job of showing the effects of polio on this small neighborhood, in relaying the horrible progression of the epidemic, which cruelly was most often contracted by kids.

But at Nemesis' end and despite my interest in this polio epidemic plot, I realized it wasn't really about polio. What it was about was the way in which individuals deal with the onslaught of horror in their lives. How some people can go on fairly effectively, not let things like disease or war or economic disasters corrupt their lives. But others cannot get past their terrible luck, and the idea that this turn of events was unjust. The idea that they didn't deserve it  completely derails them. The bitterness poisons everything.

I have read perhaps half a dozen books by Roth but apparently his last four books have dealt with this theme and I am most interested in seeing how his other characters deal with the fall of the sword.

When I wrote this little did I know
how the sword would fall on so many of us in the next few years.

Highly recommended.

Sergio Angelini, NINE AND TEN MAKES DEATH, Carter Dickson
Yvette Banek, DESTINATION UNKNOWN, Agatha Christie
Les Blatt, CONTINENTAL CRIMES, ed. Martin Edwards
Brian Busby, CAUGHT IN THE SNARE, Mary Agnes Fleming
Bill Crider, TURN ON THE HEAT, Erle Stanley Gardner
Richard Horton, RECALLED TO LIFE, Robert Silverberg
Jerry House, THE BARON IN FRANCE, John Creasey
Nick Jones, "Science Fiction from the Lewes Book Fair"
George Kelley, A CENTURY OF GREAT SUSPENSE, ed. Jeffrey Deaver 
Margot Kinberg, THE CEMETERY OF SWALLOWS, Jean-Denis Bruet Ferreols
Rob Kitchin, THE DUST OF DEATH, Paul Charles
B.V. Lawson, NAKED VILLAINY, Sara Woods
Evan Lewis, THE GUNSLINGER, Stephen King
Steve Lewis, THE PUNCH AND JUDY MURDERS, Carter Dickson
Scott D. Parker KILLER'S DOOM: A Walt Slade Western by Bradford Scott.  
Matt Paust, THE THANATOS SYNDROME, Walker Percy
James Reasoner, SENORITA DEATH, Phil Richards
Gerard Saylor, EIGHTH CIRCLE, Sarah Cain
TracyK, DEAD SKIP, Joe Gores

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What Crime Series Has Tauight You the Most About a Time or Place?

With many series to choose from I am going to credit Tana French for bringing modern Dublin to life through her Dublin Murder Squad series. Runner-up would be Tony Hillerman's books about Navajo life in the Four Corners.Waiting for the next Hillerman was a treat in the 90s.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Neglected Movies: WIN IT ALL

This is a small 2017 movie that works well on its own terms. Jake Johnson plays a gambler, and one that almost never wins. When a friend goes off to serve a prison term, he leaves our hapless hero with a bag of money to hold for him. Of course, what gambler can resist trying his hand with all that time to replace lost money. And, things look okay until his pal gets an early release. Jake Johnson wrote this with his friend Joe Swanberg who also directed. The two made another winner DRINKING BUDDIES a few years back. A likable movie that maybe is not quite as original as it needs to be. But still a good 90 minutes.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Night Music

So strange that the audience is so sedate. A very different act perhaps preceded this. Plus they seem too old for Dion.


Being honest here, not much. We did see a fabulous movie, LADY MACBETH. Phil is very much enjoying THE CORONER'S LUNCH and I am enjoying SUNBURN by Laura Lippman. We also saw OTELLO streamed from the Royal Opera House in London. And Megan said she is coming out both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I managed to find a childhood friend via facebook. I was asked to write a story for an anthology raising money for Planned Parenthood.

So it sounds like a good week. But what's going on in Virginia and the way Trump framed it; the idea he might go to war with virtually any country on the face of the earth appalls me. Too many sick friends. The very idea of white supremacists makes my blood boil. Do they have any idea what suffering others have endured? And for the first time they have a champion for their cause in the White House.

My therapist says I allow what might happen to overwhelm what is happening. This is true.
I got the book George read last week on anxiety and that has lots of insights too. Anxiety often begins with respiratory incidents according to the author. And I was in an oxygen tent with pneumonia as a six-year old child. So I wonder if that's the beginning. My insomnia began the next  year.

Sorry to anaylze myself here. Tell me what good stuff happened to you.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Night Music

Friday' Forgotten Book, August 11, 2017

(from the archives)
Nigel Bird

Stuart Kaminsky: Murder On The Yellow Brick Road

I’ve just come to the end of a rather good book. ‘City Of Dragons’ is set in the 1940s and centres upon the work of private eye Miranda Corbie. She’s a tough, hard-drinking, attractive lady with a history as colourful as a butterfly and she’s a wonderful addition to the world of detective fiction.
The good news for me is that I’ve heard from the author, Kelli Stanley, that Miranda is to make a reappearance or two, which gives me something to look forward to and a couple of easier choices when I’m facing the bookstore shelves at some point in the future.

I love to be able to watch characters as their lives unfold from one book to the next, to see them age alongside the people around them as their worlds change. It’s like forming any relationship – the more time you spend in someone else’s company, the better you get to know them (for better or worse). I’ve spent many happy hours with Maigret, Van Der Valk, Harry Bosch, Matt Scudder, Nick Stefanos, Hap Collins/Leonard Pine, and I’m always delighted to discover someone new and interesting to befriend.

One such character has been Toby Peters. I was surprised recently to see that he wasn’t even in contention on a site looking for a favourite detective – didn’t even make the first hundred. I have no idea why. He’s a fabulous character. Powerful and tough on the exterior, soft yet cynical, clever and determined and with a real code of discretion and loyalty that goes further than any sane person would take it. He’s not a son of Chandler or Hammett, but can’t be much further away than being one of their nephews.

He’s no derivative character, either. There’s a difference between homage and imitation and Kaminsky seems to understand that well.
In ‘Murder On The Yellow Brick Road’ we see Kaminsky (and Peters) at his finest. It’s not the first in the series so things are well developed and it’s not further on in the series when Kaminsky hadn’t quite found the confidence needed to leave out elements of the back-story.

“SOMEBODY HAD MURDERED a Munchkin,” is the opening line. Coming on the back of a wonderful title, I was hooked from that point on.
Toby Peters is called in to investigate. Employed over at Warner Brothers until he broke the arm of a B movie cowboy-actor, his services are enlisted by MGM to keep Judy Garland’s name out of the dirt.
It’s his discretion and his integrity that land him a job; that and an interview with Louis B Mayer. Judy is in a difficult position and it’s not looking good for either the star or the star-machine.
In steps Peters. He defends a Swiss midget seen arguing with his fellow Munchkin and victim on a number of occasions and follows up on leads that take him to interview Clark Gable. Later, while working the case, he bumps into Raymond Chandler who’s hoping to get some tips, meets some rough and dangerous characters and he even gets to see Randolph Hearst.
There’s a reel of film involved, blackmail plots and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing all the way. When the villain of the piece is revealed, you’re only a few steps ahead of the game, which keeps it tense and interesting to the end.

Looking at the cast of characters, it would be easy to dismiss this book as a gimmick. I choose to see it in a different way. Kaminsky is playing to his strengths, marrying together his passion and knowledge of film and fiction to create a tale that is worthy of the best.
By mixing in real characters into his plots he was taking a big chance given that many people have strong feelings about all those involved. I’m no expert, but the way Garland and Gable come across it feels entirely as I might have imagined.

At times, the humour and the theatrical nature of the plot and scenes are used to paper over any cracks and the result is a real gem. It’s not only Peters who we come to love. There are a number of other characters in his life who have been beautifully constructed.
There’s Sheldon Mink, lunatic dentist with whom Peters shares an office. Anyone visiting him for treatment should really be seeing a shrink.
Jeremy Butler is the man who owns the building where Mink and Peters hang out. He’s an ex-wrestler, new-father and ageing poet rolled into one package, as well as being someone that’s useful to have around when the going gets tough.
There’s his landlady, a deaf old bird who seems to have selective hearing and a desire to have her memoirs published.
And there’s his brother, a big wig in the police force. When it comes to sibling rivalry we’re talking Cain and Abel. Unlike Toby, Lieutenant Phil Pevsner hasn’t changed his name to mask his heritage. Phil also happens to have the temper of a Berserker and the strength of a team of oxen and he uses both pretty much every time they have a reunion.
These characters play key roles in this and the following books.
When I came to finish ‘Yellow Brick Road’ I really needed to get straight into another. And another after that. And how’s this for a title of a later book - Mildred Pierced; it takes a hell of a mind to come up with jewels like that on such a regular basis.
Light, intriguing and rooted in the early days of detective fiction, pick up this book and you’re sure to return to mine the rich vein that lays waiting for you.

Sergio Angelini, HARK, Ed McBain
Yvette Banek, BLOOD AND JUDGMENT, Michael Gilbert, DEATH IN FIVE BOXES, Carter Dickson
Les Blatt, SCARWEATHER, Anthony Rolls  
Brian Busby, Edith Percival, May Agnes Fleming
Bill Crider, POTENT STUFF, Al James
Martin Edwards, TRENT'S OWN CASE, E.C. Bentley
Charles Gramlich, DARK HOURS, Sidney Williams
Richard Horton, THE HISTORY OF HENRY ESMOND, William Makepeace Thackeray 
George Kelley, THE VAN RIJIN METHOD, Poul Anderson
Margot Kinberg, MURDER IN THE MARAIS, Cara Black  
B.V. Lawson, DEATH IN THE OLD COUNTRY, Eric Wright 
Evan Lewis, GIRL IN A BIG BRASS BED, Peter Rabe
Steve Lewis, MURDER ON THE MAURETANIA, Conrad Allen
J.F. Norris, ANGEL LOVES NOBODY, Richard Miles
Matt Paust, LOVE IN THE RUINS, Walker Percy 
James Reasoner, THE SCARLET KILLER AND OTHER STORIES,  Malcolm Wheeler Nicholson
Gerard Saylor, DEADMAN'S ROAD, Joe R. Lansdale 
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, WHO'S NEXT, George Baxt
TracyK, THE RAINBIRD PATTERN, Victor Canning

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Man Up

A single woman runs into a 40 year old divorcee, Jack, who mistakes her for his 24 year old blind date. Nancy goes with it and they share a very funny evening.
'Man Up' is a romantic comedy about taking chances, finding about being yourself, making decisions and rolling with the consequences.
Simon Pegg is always enjoyable but this is the first time I've seen him play the romantic lead. He does a good job as does Lake Bell. Directed by Ben Palmer, just the nice sort of movie you want on a late summer evening.

Man Up is available on Netflix and runs less than 90 minutes, my sweet spot for romantic comedies.

Monday, August 07, 2017


Spent a very enjoyable Saturday with the whole gang. It doesn't happen enough. And in such a small family, it still seems like there should be more of us. Thanks to my son and DIL for making this happen. The only fly in the ointment was that Megan had to leave early to avoid bad weather. So instead of two days it was only a day and a half. The airlines put you in a bind when they email you saying if you want to change your flight you must do it now.

Lovely weather lately.

Enjoying a Belgian TV series on Netflix called HOTEL BEAU SEJOUR. It's about a ghost and a crime. What could be better. There is even a dubbing option offered but we went with the subtitled version.

Megan passed on an ARC of Laura Lippman's February book SUNBURN, which looks to be terrific.She loved it.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Friday, August 04, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 4, 2017


 (from the archives)

BIG TOWN by Doug J. Swanson (reviewed by Nerd of Noir)

Doug J. Swanson was a hero to me when I was a teenager. I can remember reading his debut, Big Town, on a camping trip when I was twelve. It was one of those books that just woke me up, showed me how down and dirty the crime genre could be.

I'd say that Big Town played a major role in making me a crime fiction fan for life. No shit, dear readers. None whatsofuckingever.

Big Town is the first in Swanson's shamefully under-appreciated Jack Flippo novels, a private eye series set in Dallas, Texas (in case you thought I meant the other Dallas...). Flippo used to work in the DA's office until his dick got him into some trouble (and I don't mean like his dick didn't use the proper format on a memo, I mean like his dick had sex with the wrong woman), costing him his job. Now he's one step ahead of the repo man and collection agencies, living in a shit shack that no bum would envy, and he still hasn't learned to think with the other head.

Jack is hard up for money (in case that last sentence wasn't clear...) so he takes a quick job from a scummy lawyer friend snapping photos of the famous huckster/entrepeneur Buddy George cheating on his wife. Bad shit goes down during the shoot and Jack ends up saving the mistress from George's violent idea of sex.

Then he finds out that George's "wife" is actually his opportunistic secretary, Paula (who happens to be smoking hot) and that someone paid the mistress to seduce Buddy George. Obviously, things are not what they seem and soon Jack is in the thick of a twisted blackmail plot that is - no joke - fucking brimming with double crosses, hot sex and some memorably nasty violence.

What first strikes you about Big Town is that while it seems to be a P.I. novel, it quickly becomes clear that it is more of a crime novel than a mystery. There aren't any major revelations or anything, we're kept abreast of shit along the way like an Elmore Leonard novel. We get to follow all the major players in this one and thank God, because Jack has some great fucking characters surrounding him - Teddy Deuce chief amongst them.

Teddy is the henchman in this book, the idiot muscle counted upon to deliver the beat downs and intimidate the competition. Thing is, dude's about as loyal as your dog when a stranger offers him a piece of hamburger. Teddy double-crosses people so often that his dumb ass can't keep straight who he's working for eventually.

Then there's Buddy George, the Napoleonic motivational speaker. And the sexy femme fatale Paula. And the mistress Sharronda. And Sharronda's white trash piece of shit boyfriend Delbert - a brief (guess what happens) but MAJOR highlight.

But of course, a series is only as strong as its hero and Jack is one of the all-timers. He is as smart as they come and says all the cool lines but, goddamnit, dude just can't see a foot in front of him if his dick is at attention. In other words, he's willing to over-look certain things about Paula, a woman he can't even remotely trust but man is she purty, a situation that leads to him becoming one of the more dark and fascinating series heroes I've ever encountered.

Swanson hit the fucker out the park his first time around and his following novels were no slouches either. Dreamboat, the second book, has this mistaken identity thing near the end involving tattoos that is just the nastiest, most perverse, excellent scene ever. I mean it just...shit. I guess this FFB entry is really just a plug for Swanson's body of work. The guy was just so damned good and it's coming up on a decade since we've heard anything from him. That is a shame and a fucking half.

I think Swanson's brand of sick, funny and dark would fit right in with the big boys of neo-noir that are pumping out the awesome today. He had his own thing going with Jack Flippo - a PI series that was more Cain than Chandler - and Big Town showed he had it down cold right out the fucking gate.

Sergio Angelini, HARD-BOILED, NOIR AND GOLD MEDALS, Rick Ollerman
Yvette Banek, MURDER ON SAFARI, Elspeth Huxley
Joe Barone, THE BACHELORS OF BROKEN HILL, Arthur Upfield
Les Blatt, BRAZEN TONGUE, Gladys Mitchell
Elgin Bleecker, THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, Anthony Hope
Brian Busby, OVER THE TOP: A WAR POEM, Sergeant Stanley B. Fullerton
Bill Crider, THE BACKUP MEN, Ross Thomas
Scott Cupp, ISLES OF THE DEAD, Roger Zelazny
Martin Edwards, UNEXPECTED NIGHT, Elizabeth Daly
Richard Horton, IN THE HALL OF THE MARTIAN KING, John Barnes
Jerry House, THE PLANT, Stephen King
George Kelley, THE STORY OF CLASSIC CRIME IN 100 BOOKS, Martin Edwards
Margot Kinberg, TRIAL OF PASSION, William Deverell
Rob Kitchin, THE BURNING GATES, Parker Bilal
B.V. Lawson, THE END OF SOLOMON GRUNDY, Julian Symons
Evan Lewis, PRISONER'S BASE, Rex Stout
Steve Lewis, DEATH WEARS A MASK, Ashley Weaver
Todd Mason, THE BARBIE MURDERS, John Varley
J.F. Norris, THE ARROW POINTS TO MURDER, Frederica De Laguna
Matt Paust, COMEDIES OF COURTSHIP, Anthony Hope
James Reasoner, THE EASY GUN. E.M. Parsons
Gerard Saylor, KIWI WARS,  Garry Kilworth
Kevin Tipple,/ Barry Ergang, BOOTLEGGER'S DAUGHTER, Margaret Maron
TomCat, THE ECHOING STRANGER, Gladys Mitchell
TracyK, THE FASHION IN SHROUDS, Margery Allingham

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Unusual settings in a novel.

What first comes to mind is THE LIFE OF PI, which takes place almost entirely in a lifeboat.

What other settings come to mind?

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Tuesday Forgotten Movie: THE LAST PICTURE SHOW

This film holds up wonderfully. So many characters with depth to them. Even the smallest parts. Yes black and white but so much more than that. This is a scrapheap of a town. A dusty, dirty disappearing piece of long ago. Set in the fifties, it seems to set the standard for what would happen time and time again to towns in the next 75 years. Larry McMurtry sure can tell a tale. Peter Bogdonavich probably never matched the combination of story, setting and character again. There is not a happy end for anyone. Nor hardly a happy moment.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

We have had much beautiful weather, especially temperature wise. Although we could use some rain. We are installing a sprinkler system next week, which should help.

Really happy Megan is sneaking out next weekend for two days. Although we saw her in NY in April and will see her in Toronto in October, we never really get enough time with her unless she comes here.

DETROIT was an amazing movie although the Algiers Motel incident, which was the centerpiece, was the most harrowing 45 minutes I've spent in a theater in a long time. Maybe ever.

Happy that Phil is through 2 weeks of radiation and low-dose chemo without any real trouble. 3-4 to go.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dunkirk Music

FFB, July 28, 2017

( From the archives: Chad Eagleton)
THE RED RIGHT HAND, Joel Townsley Rogers

People say that nothing good comes cheap.

My local library used to have a book sale every Wednesday with a huge section of 10 cent paperbacks. That’s where I found my copy of Joel Townsley Rogers' The Red Right Hand.

At best, I hoped for a few hours of entertainment. At worst…I hoped for a few hours of entertainment.

What I got was something much more—an amazingly well-plotted and sinister thriller. A nightmarish fever dream that’s reminiscent of a David Lynch film—when he’s on his game and puts aside all the arty gobbledygook of creamed corn and rabbit-headed protagonists.

Inis St. Erme and Elinor Darrie are on their way to Vermont to be married. On a lonely New England road, they are attacked by a hitchhiker, a strange little man with sharp teeth and twisted, corkscrew legs. Elinor manages to escape. St. Erme is not so lucky. The mad dwarf kidnaps him, dragging him along on a demented joyride that ends with several other townspeople dead and St. Erme’s corpse found along the roadside—his right hand hacked off at the wrist.

The mad dwarf’s rampage should have taken him directly past Dr. Henry Riddle and his stalled coupe. But Riddle didn’t see anything—no killer, no St. Erme, and no car.

Why? It’s the question that pulls Riddle into the hallucinatory murder spree, and plunges him into a surrealist nightmare that leaves him questioning his own sanity. As the action moves back and forth over the course of a single, tense night, Riddle tries to make sense of the events, his words shifting—sometimes brief, clipped, to the point; sometimes formalized, complex sentences befitting a learned man with a well-ordered brain; others a feverish frenzy pouring forth from the subconscious, a stream of images seething and writhing, the disjointed thoughts of a madman. All of which builds toward an unforeseen climax.

Originally published as a short story and then expanded into a novel, The Red Right Hand has been reprinted several times. (My own copy is from 1964, cost 50 cents, and was issued by Pyramid Books as part of their “Green Door Mystery” line.) Copies are easily found.

You should get yours before someone figures out that something this good does comes cheap and corrects the error.

Sergio Angelini, THE NIGHT MANAGER, John LeCarre
Joe Barone, LEGACY OF THE DEAD, Charles Todd
Brian Busby, WHERE IS JENNY NOW? Frances Shelly Wees
Bill Crider, ENCHANTED PILGRIMAGE, Clifford D. Simak
Martin Edwards, THE BLACKMAILERS, Ernest Tristain
Richard Horton, TREMOR OF INTENT, Antthony Burgess
Jerry House, THE RADIO MAN, Roger Sherman Hoar
George Kelley, WODEHOUSE ON CRIME, P.G. Wodehouse
Margot Kinberg, BLOODY WATERS, Carolina Garcie-Aguilera
B.V. Lawson, AN AIR THAT KILLS, Margaret Millar
Steve Lewis, APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH, Agatha Christie
Todd Mason, Spillane Parodies and Pastiches by Jean Kerr, Fritz Leiber and Howard Browne
Neer, ENVIOUS CASCA, Georgette Heyer
J.F. Norris, THE THING AT THEIR HEELS, Harrington Hext
Steven Nestor (THE RAP SHEET) DOG SOLDIERS, Robert Stone
Matt Paust, GOODBYE MR. CHIPS and WAS IT MURDER, James Hilton
James Reasoner, CHILDREN OF THE SUN, Edmund Hamilton
Gerard Saylor, MAN ON THE BALCONY, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
TomCat, CASE OF THE SMOKING CHIMNEY, Erle Stanley Gardner
TracyK, CITY OF DRAGONS    Kelly Stanley

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


What piece of jewelry evokes a book or a movie for you? Probably not too many. The ruby necklace in PRETTY WOMAN was a nice touch. And, of course, the locket from THE LOCKET.

Of course, Guy De Maupassant's THE NECKLACE is the most famous example. 

And thanks to a pal (Anon) we know THE LOCKET is on TCM on August 6 early in the morning. I have my DVR fired up. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

This is the Show That Introduced Megan to old Movies

Tuesday Music

Forgotten Movies: THE LOCKET

If someone asked me what film sent Megan running toward noir, I would name this film.I remember her watching it like it was yesterday.

Eerie, surprising, complex. I look for it on TCM sometimes and never see it. It's a B cast (Larraine Day, Brian Aherne, Robert Mitchun)  but it works.The movie was known for its extensive and skillful use of flashbacks.Have you seen it?

Monday, July 24, 2017


Although I can't say that the movie DUNKIRK made me happy, it did make me glad to see how seriously Christopher Nolan took his task in bringing that battle to life. His method of showing it through three narratives worked well for me. And the sense of self-sacrifice exhibited by many characters in that film reminded me that good people still exist. I especially enjoyed the performance of Mark Rylance, who is always spot on.

I was very happy at how well my meeting with the book group who read SHOT IN DETROIT went. This was a group of women who had been together for almost fifty years. I think my book was difficult for some of them (unlikable protagonist issues), but they were good sports, asked smart questions, made good observations, Some of them were Survivors and how I would love to hear their stories. All of them were still engaged by life, books, movies, lectures. What a great afternoon.

Also enjoyed my own book group as we discussed LOVING DAY, Mat Johnson's novel is about being bi-racial. The woman who hosted it was a widow of two months. What strength it must take to force yourself out in the world so quickly. She promised her husband she would do this and she was keeping that promise.

And my third group of women, that meets Thursday mornings, always manages to make me happy. As we bat around current events and personal issues, munching on fruit and drinking tea or coffee, we always leave smiling.

I am also happy that Phil has found two groups of men to meet with. The Hump Day group, meeting Wednesday afternoon, is very large and their speaker didn't turn up this week, so they pelted Phil with questions about the presidency. It was good for him to talk about his scholarship again. His Sunday group, much smaller,  talks more about sports, politics, etc.

This new community has been so good for us. I am so happy we moved when we did.

Friday, July 21, 2017

FFB: Heist Week, July 21, 2017

 HEIST SOCIETY (No. 1) Ally Carter

I spent a lot of time, a really lot of time, looking for the right book to read for this topic. Although I have seen dozens of movies about heists, I had never read one. Well. maybe I had and just don't remember it. I must have read a Westlake one.
I took a handful of books out of the library, and none of them grabbed me. Although I loved the topic onscreen, perhaps for me heists are visual subjects.
As I looked for books online, the name Ally Carter kept popping up. I saw her first book in a series was available for almost nothing online so I downloaded it, still not realizing it was a YA book. I don't read YA books really. Well, I read THE HUNGER GAMES and the Greene one about the girl with cancer but on the whole, no.
And then I became fascinated with how an author was going to write a series about a girl burglar. How could she justify it satisfactorily? She certainly didn't want to encourage teenage crime.
She gets off the hook by having her heroine disavow a life of crime and then constructing the plot around the idea that the girl's father is accused of stealing famous paintings. And it is up to Katarina Bishop to find the stolen paintings and prove it was not the work of her father. To this end, she does the time-honored thing and assembles a group of teens to help her.
Carter manages to be witty and fun throughout the book and yet, I found it wanting. I can see that full-fledged adults would be able to read this for the fun of it without thinking the author was endorsing a life of crime. Yet if a twelve year old reads this, what is their takeaway? I am not sure.. I guess my uncertainty stems from the fact that I was reading adult novels and not YA novels from 12-16. So yes, I was reading some pretty questionable narratives in terms of morality. But those books were not written with a teenage reader in mind. If you are writing YA, what is your responsibility? Yes, Katarina only steals for the greater good. But she puts herself, (a fifteen  year old) in harms way to do it. Carter has written several more additions to this series. I am pretty sure they are based on the same formula: Katarina is asked to use her gift for humanity's good.
Looking at the reviews of this book afterwards, clearly the majority of readers saw it as a romance. Maybe as it should be seen. Maybe all YA girls see books as romantic.

The H connotes books that deal with a heist or a similar theme. 

Yvette Banek, ARROW POINTING NOWHERE, Elizabeth Daly
Joe Barone, MERCY FALLS, William Ken Kruger
Les Blatt, CLUTCH OF CONSTABLES, Ngaio March
Elgin Bleecker, THE MONEY TRAP, Lionel White (H)
Alice Chang, THE HOW OF HAPPINESS, Sonia Lyubomirsky
Bill Crider, ROSS MACDONALD'S INWARD JOURNEY, Ralph Sipper. ed
Rick Horton, Ring Around the Sun, by Clifford D. Simak/Cosmic Manhunt, by L. Sprague de Camp
Jerry House, BLOOD ON THE MOON, Basil Cooper
George Kelley, MARILYN K and THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR, Lionel White (H)
Margot Kinberg, TALKING TO THE DEAD, Harry Bingham
Rob Kitchin, DEAD WATER, Ann Cleves
K.A. Laity, FRENCHMEN'S CREEK, Daphne DuMaurier (H)
Evan Lewis, Forgotten Adaptations of Books
Steve Lewis/Bill Pronzini, A TASTE OF ASHES, Howard Browne
Todd Mason,  ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW by William P. McGivern (Dodd, Mead 1957); YA birthday bonus heistlet: FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E. L. Konigsburg (H)
J.F. Norris, DEAD RECKONING. Bruce Hamilton
Matt Paust, WHERE THE MONEY WAS, Willie Sutton with Edward Linn (H)
James Reasoner, HIGH LONESOME, Lous L'Amour; WE ARE ALL DEAD, Bruno Fischer (H)
Richard Robinson, A SIX-LETTER WORD FOR DEATH, Patricia Moyes
Gerard Saylor, THE UNBURIED DEAD, Douglas Lindsay
TomCat, BOOK OF MURDER, Frederick Irving Anderson

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The writers for THE DEUCE begin an outline for the second season in Baltimore. That's James Franco in the rear with the baseball cap. David Simon next to him. Price on the other side. Pelecanos, Lisa Lutz and Megan up front. Don't know the others.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What Book Has Been in on Your TBR the longest and why haven't you either read it or ditched it?

Well, of course, there is more than one. And generally, they are books that came highly recommended or I wouldn't still have them, books I at least gave a start to, but then put aside. Books I know I should read but never seem to. And usually they are books known for a high violence quotient that I am sort of scared of.
Like THE KILLER INSIDE ME by Jim Thompson or SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER by David Goodis.

What about you?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Based on the novel, THE COUNTRY GIRL, by Edna O'Brien, Rita Tushingham brings her winsome charm to the story of a girl's first love affair, with an older novelist.More than movies about teenagers from Hollywood of this era, which seemed to be always set on a beach, this reminds me of my youth.

I am a great fan of British cinema from this era. Do you have a favorite film from the UK? 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Things That Made Me Happy

I made arrangements to put up a new fence across our backyard. We have to wait until October however. Apparently the dearth of people willing to work for the kind of low wages places like this pay has cut down on their employee pool. I heard the same thing from a few other places recently. I will be very glad to have a fence that isn't falling over come October. Just in time for snow.

Saw an interesting documentary about Gertrude Bell, who was a founder of modern day Baghdad. Her accomplishments were many. The footage the film had from 1920s Iraq was amazing.

I am going to talk to a book group this week about SHOT IN DETROIT. I have always been somewhat worried about this because I'm a transplant to Detroit and have been afraid I got some of it wrong. Or was in someway exploitative. Crossed fingers it goes well.

So happy Phil, Josh and Kevin got to see the Tigers win. The white stuff on Phil's face is zinc from the sun bloc.

Grantchester on PBS is going in unexpected directions. All three major characters are having crises unrelated to crime-solving. Bravo for making me interested in their lives as much as their crimes.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, July 14, 2017

Todd Mason will have the links today. I really appreciate the help he has extended me through this trying year. Although there is no sign of cancer on the last scan, the oncologist has recommended six weeks of radiation and low dose chemo (taken as a pill)  as an insurance policy. A second opinion backed this up. We begin Monday.

Next week is heist week for those who have one to recommend.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy star in the his and her film versions of a breakup of a marriage after the death of their infant. Directed by Ned Benson, the two films do not cover exactly the same ground although there are many intersections. The films are a study of grief and how different people and perhaps different sexes handle it differently. Benson eventually made one film of it: THEM.

The supporting cast is excellent and includes: Isabelle Huppert, William Hurt, Viola Davis, Bill Hader, Ciaran Hinds. This is a painful movie but well worth your time for the excellent acting and believable plot. There is real chemistry between the leads and you root for them to find their way back to each other.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Longer Trailer for THE DEUCE

Things That Make Me Happy

Two years ago I came to Huntington Woods from a neighborhood where I rarely saw people on the streets. Now if I look out my window, there is always someone walking, riding their bike, pushing a stroller, skate-boarding. In couples or threesomes. In families, In bike brigades. Many lawns bear signs saying NO HATE HERE or similar sentiments. I am grateful to live in a place where people care about each other. I am grateful to be where people are embracing.

Enjoyed the Fourth of July parade in Huntington Woods. It mostly seems to be about throwing candy and politicians making themselves known but I guess that's normal

Kevin is working on a comic book series called Nuggetman. He has about a dozen issues of it. Nuggetman throws a lot of people in jail. (Kevin seems to like drawing jailhouse pictures). At the end of each issue, he includes a crossword puzzle (just for show) and a page showing how he created Nuggetman. He also enacts his adventures on video with his friends.

He is also getting good on the guitar, especially for a ten-year old. The big difference has been twice a week lessons and Mondays is with the studio's rock band. Learning with other kids instead of just one- to- one has spurred him on. I am amazed at how much music is already tucked into that head.

And I am thrilled at how Kevin's parents make sure he gets to sample everything. This summer he is going to see Treasure Island at Stratford, doing a  hockey camp, doing a tech camp, doing the guitar lessons, doing an all-purpose camp. He has polished off most of Judy Blume in the last few months. I am so sorry for the kids whose parents cannot afford this sort of enrichment. It used to be the schools stepped in with music and art, but no longer. Speaking of which...

I met an artist at an art fair on Saturday who told me he learned his craft of jewelry making while at Cass Tech High School in Detroit. I wonder how many high schools are still able to offer such an specific class. Cass Tech was the jewel of what was once a fantastic school system.

Really enjoyed the movie THE BIG SICK although the combination of Ray Romano and Holly Hunter's quirky voices can wear thin. Note to film-makers: one odd voice is probably enough.

I also found BABY DRIVER rather thrilling. The plot does not hold up to scrutiny but boy, it's a good time. The music is a knockout. The car chases are amazing.

Have enjoyed the series SHETLAND on Netflix. It is so well cast and Scotland looks terrific if a little forbidding.

I really enjoyed Karen Dionne's THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER . We were amazed at Karen's knowledge of living in the wilderness but the mystery was solved by an article in a UK paper that explains she did just that for three years. You can read it here.

So what are you up to?

Friday, July 07, 2017

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, July 7, 2017

Todd Mason will have the links next week

(from the archives) Sarah J. Wesson is a local history librarian by day, writer of con-game fiction by night, and all-around sleep-deprived, chai latte addict.

THE CASE OF THE LUCKY LEGS, Erle Stanley Gardiner
While Earle Stanley Gardiner can hardly be called a forgotten author, nor Perry Mason a forgotten character, the books that first introduced these icons to the public appear to be fading from memory. Or at least they are in my library, where most of them have been relegated to the large print shelves so that the patrons who grew up reading about the singular cases of the granite-hard defense attorney can enjoy them without squinting.
The earliest Gardiner in our collection is The Case of the Lucky Legs. First published in 1933, it was the fifth of what would be roughly eighty-two Perry Mason adventures. Stilted by our standards, with rigid standards of grammar and punctuation, and---heaven forbid---not a few adverbs, this mystery still grabs the imagination and keeps it there until the last page.
The case starts with a provocative photograph of a pair of shapely female legs, sent to the lawyer by a prominent businessman, who wants Mason to do something about a fraud that has hurt a young lady of his acquaintance. It seems that a movie studio man has been conning innocent girls into competing in a Lucky Legs contest, the winner of which is promised a screen career that never materializes. Unfortunately, there is no legal recourse unless the con man confesses.
Unlike the televised, post World War II Perry Mason who has entered our cultural lexicon, the Perry Mason of the 1930s wasn't afraid to get his hands or his ethics dirty---he basically agrees beat a confession out of the huckster, though he does pause to square this plan with the county prosecutor before heading to the man’s hotel. In the lobby, he bumps into a frightened young lady with good-looking gams, so it comes as no surprise---to the reader or our hero---that Mason discovers the murdered body of the con man. Moments before the police arrive, alerted by a neighbor who heard a woman’s screams, Mason extracts himself by a bit of slick trickery and gets to work.
It seems odd that Perry Mason doesn’t set foot in a courtroom in Lucky Legs---he didn't settle into regular trial work until later in the series. It’s clear that Gardiner is till getting to know his character and hadn’t quite settled on his formula. But Mason does tamper with a crime scene, trap himself in a legal corner or two, smoke enough to stun a camel, and bring the murderer to justice at the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour despite numerous red herrings. Furthermore, his client is as lovely and clueless as they come and the man footing the bill is an interfering, opinionated pain in the tuchus. Della Street is smart, sassy, and loyal, while Paul Drake is hangdog, hungry, and resourceful.
These are among the golden elements that have kept Perry Mason going for almost eighty years. They’re well worth a revival, not only as the prototypes to modern legal procedurals or slices of social history, but as terrific who-on-earth-dunnits.
I confess that I check out these books fairly often to keep them off the weeding reports. If that's a crime, I doubt even Hamilton Berger, Mr. Mason's D.A. foil and frenemy, could bring himself to prosecute.

Yvette Banek, THE EMPEROR's SNUFF BOX, John Dickson Carr
Joe Barone, SEARCH THE DARK, Charles Todd
Les Blatt, DETECTION BY GASLIGHT, Douglas G. Greene
Elgin Bleecker, THE KILLING, Lionel White
Bill Crider, DESERT STAKEOUT, Harry Whittington
Martin Edwards, NECK AND NECK, Leo Bruce
Curt Evans, MURDER IN PASTICHE, Marion Mainwaring
Elisabeth Grace Foley, TISH, Mary Roberts Rinehart
Richard Horton,  STEPSONS OF TERRA, by Robert Silverberg/ A MAN CALLED DESTINY, by Lan Wright
Jerry House, THE GIRL FROM HOLLYWOOD, Edgar Rice Burroughs
Nick Jones, Science Fiction Books Bought Near Brighton Station 
George Kelley, MISKATONIC UNIVERSITY, Martin H. Greenberg and Robert Greenberg
B.V. Lawson, DEATH AND THE SKY ABOVE, Paul Winterton
Evan Lewis, RED HORSE, Will Murray
Steve Lewis, DEATH PULLS A DOUBLE CROSS, Lawrence Block
Todd Mason,  PULLING OUR OWN STRINGS: FEMINIST HUMOR & SATIRE edited by Gloria Kaufman and Mary Kay Blakely
Matt Paust, RANDOM HARVEST, James Hilton
James Reasoner, HELL'S RECRUIT, Phil Richards
Richard Robinson, THE COMING FURY, Bruce Catton
Gerard Saylor, THE RIVALRY, Norman Curwin
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, DEATH OF A SNOB,  M.C. Beaton
TomCat, THE DA DRAWS A CIRCLE, Erle Stanley Gardner
TracyK, TRACK OF THE CAT, Nevada Barr
Zybahn, BOOK OF BLOOD, VOl 1, Clive Barker

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

HUNGER, Roxane Gay

'I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.'
New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay

This is an exceptional book although a very painful one. I cannot recall a memoir more painful. Roxane Gay, a professor and the author of several other works, lays out the pivotal event in her life. The event that sent her on an eating binge that still goes on. At 12, she was gang-raped by a group of boys. Her accelerated eating quickly followed this. Her thinking was that if she was large, she would be less vulnerable. And she is large at 6'4 and of varying weights. In HUNGER, she tells us everything about herself: the shame she feels at her weight, the horrible insults hurled at her in person and through social media, the difficulties being fat incurs, all of it. You can find many interviews with Professor Gay on you tube if you'd like to hear her. Or read the book. It took her almost thirty years to tell her story--and she tells it all. Brave woman.

Whose memoir moved you? 

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy Fourth of July

What is your favorite patriotic movie? SAVING PRIVATE RYAN perhaps.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

So happy to see three terrific plays at Stratford: GUYS AND DOLLS, THE BACCHAE and HMS PINAFORE. Stratford never fails to impress with their terrific staging, acting, singing, etc. Truly they are the gem of Canada.If you are in traveling distance, try to get there.

Really nice to meet up with Brian Busby in Stratford. He is doing the final edits on his book on forgotten Canadian novels. It will debut in August. Grab a copy. I bet the title sounds familiar.

I am so lucky to have a friend like Todd Mason who helps me out whenever I need help. 

It is always wonderful to be in Canada where life seems sane again. Happy 150th to the best neighbors ever.  

What makes you happy this week?