Monday, March 27, 2017

Stephen Haffner from Haffner Press reminds us that April 5, 2017 will be the 100th birthday of Robert Bloch and invites us to celebrate it by posting about various Bloch works. Anyone who would like to post a piece on my blog on the 5th is very welcome.

Things That Make Me Happy


My book talk at the Grosse Pointe Public Library went very well last week. More than 70 people turned out and I only knew about a dozen of them. They asked wonderful questions about my books, writing, other writers. It lasted nearly 90 minutes. I was so glad it turned out well because Diana Howbert, the librarian that set it up, had really pushed for having me and made all kinds of arrangements to make it a success. She even manged to get the local newspaper to publicize it--a real feat. I love my new side of town, but the GPPL is one of the great institutions of my life.

I am really enjoying my second William Kent Kruger novel, IRON LAKE. I broke my one author-one book rule to read it and am glad I did. I can hardly believe it was a debut novel. The writing is so skilled but not slick. My favorite combo.

There was a lot I didn't like about the movie PERSONAL SHOPPER, but Kristen Stewart, who was in every scene, was not one of them. What a terrific career looms in front of her.

I am so happy that Affordable Health Act is still in place. It may not be perfect but the draconian measures being put forth by Ryan and his band of thieves would have been disastrous. Crossed fingers they can be defeated on their plans for the tax code, the wall, etc.

I am thankful for my wonderful son, his wife, and Kevin who came to my book talk as they have come to all of them. And also to the friends who turned out for the third time. Family and friends, that's what it is all about, right? This was a long trip for all of them.

Loved Fran Lebowitz' BY THE BOOK piece in the NYT which managed to be humble and arrogant at the same time.

We were lucky enough to go to the DSO and hear Branford Marsalis and the DSO play  GABRIEL PROKOFIEV Saxophone Concerto (DSO premiere). Truly a stunning concert with Gabriel's grandfathers's ROMEO AND JULIET suite too. 
Sometimes I forget how many things I have to make me happy.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, March 24, 2017


(From the archives)
Not exactly a forgotten book since C.J. Box's BLUE HEAVEN won the Edgar in 2009. But I have been meaning to read it and since I did, here is my review. This is a masterful book that manages to tell a fairly complex story in a completely lucid way. There is no fat in the story. It takes place over 48 hours and you can feel those hours ticking by at breakneck speed.
Two kids in northern Idaho watch the murder of a man, see that they've been spotted and are immediately on the run. They are lucky enough to find themselves in the barn of Jess Rawlins, a rancher who is one of the few good men left in his neck of the woods. He is also a hardluck guy who has lost almost everything. But Jess must hide the kids, figure out if their story is true, and determine just who the murderers are and why. Can he trust that what they think they saw really happened. And is it fair to keep the kids away from their worrying mother.
Blue Heaven is a term for the part of northern Idaho that is now a haven for ex-policeman. And some of those ex-policemen have taken over Jess's town for their own purposes. The is an exciting read and a nice introduction to this part of the country. Not a false step in the story and Box creates great villains and great heroes. Not an easy thing to do.

Mark Baker, LA REQUIEM, Robert Crais
Yvette Banek, HEIR TO MURDER, Miles Burton
Joe Barone, A CAST OF VULTURES, Judith Flanders
Brian Busby, PILLAR OF FIRE Gordan Green
Bill Crider, HOMICIDE TRINITY, Rex Stout
Martin Edwards, JOE JENKINS, DETECTIVE, Paul Rosenhayn
Richard Horton,  Flower of Doradil, by John Rackham/A Promising Planet, by Jeremy Strike
Jerry House, THE SEVEN CARDINAL VIRTUES OF SCIENCE FICTION, ed. Asimov et al
Nick Jones, THE FOREVER WAR, Joe Haldeman
George Kelley, ONCE A PULP MAN, Audrey Parente
Margot Kinberg, WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN A CASTLE, Shirley Jackson
B.V. Lawson, DEATH OF A BUSYBODY, Dell Shannon
Evan Lewis, NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH, James Hadley Chase
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, ALL SHALL BE WELL, Deborah Crombie
Todd Mason, THE BANTAM STORY, Clarence Peterson
Matt Paust, A VIEW OF THE CHARLES, Con Chapman
James Reasoner, KI-GOR AND THE FORBIDDEN MOUNTAIN, John Peter Drummond
Richard Robinson, IMPOSSIBLE STORIES, Zoran Zivkovic
Gerard Saylor, SNITCH JACKET, Chris Goffard
Kerrie Smith, LUSTRUM, Robert Harris
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, MR. MONK IN TROUBLE, Lee Goldberg
TomCat,MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA, Agatha Christie
TracyK, DANCERS IN MOURNING, Margery Allingham


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Books Set in Hotels

A lot of Christie's make great use of hotels but so does mainstream fiction. I  am thinking of MRS. PALFREY AT THE CLAREMOUNT (Elizabeth Taylor) and HOTEL DU LAC by Anita Brookner.
Any more?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Favorite Movies of 2007

  (Excuse wonky spacing). Can't seem to fix it.

Painted Veil                                                                                                                  Volver                                                                                                                                        Zodiac

Lives of Others
First Snow
51 Birch Street
Away From Her
Once
Hairspray
3:10 to Yuma
Gone Baby Gone
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
Starting Out in the Evening
Sweeney Todd

TODAY: I don't remember FIRST SNOW but I am going to look it up. The rest I still would vote for. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

We have been enjoying Escape to the Country on Netflix. If you like to look at the English countryside and watch couples explore houses, this is a great series. The houses are so much more interesting than the ones on similar U.S. shows. You don't hear repeated use of the words "open concept" and no one is big on stainless steel or cookie cutter kitchens. Although these are pretty pricey houses on the whole. Don't get me wrong. We are not looking at semi-detached houses in Manchester.

Been reading RUNAWAY by Alice Munro, which I read before but after seeing the Almodovar film Julieta I wanted to see how they used three stories for the narrative. Always amazed how she can tell a novel's worth of a story in a few thousand words.

Kevin and two of his friends were here on Thursday. So interesting to see how instead of playing a game they take it apart and film the game playing itself, adding dialogue and movement. Or instead of playing football they film each other catching the ball and them make it go backwards or in slow motion. They used two ipads and two iphones hooked together to get the effects . Pretty amazing but they don't know where India is on a map. Theirs is going to be a different world if there's a world left for them.

So kind of the Oakland Press is going an interview with me. The two Detroit papers have been singularly uninterested in doing this sort of story for years and in fact, have never responded to an email from Polis Books or me. Or even done a feature on Megan. But this smaller paper responded right away when the MWA contacted them about the Edgar nomination.

The movie A SENSE OF AN ENDING. It wasn't quite  as good as the very difficult book. But what I loved about it was seeing older people treated seriously, Older people who were not ill. And I loved seeing the faces of Jim Broadbent, Harriet Walters, Charlotte Rampling and several others still carrying a movie. Rampling is as mysterious as ever. Did she ever play an unambiguous person?

The fabulous soundtracks on so many TV shows now. Have really enjoyed the music on BIG LITTLE LIES lately. (Also ATLANTA, THE LEFTOVERS, THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE)

That I have a friend like Mary who went to Ulta with me to pick out makeup. Sounds like a small thing but I have never really learned much about it, coming from the hippie tradition. She's been my closest friend for 25 years and I love her. (As does Phil).



I know the things that make me happy tend to be books, movies, plays, music rather than personal relationship-related things. But you can just assume that my family always makes me  happy.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Night Music


Friday's Forgotten Books, March 17, 2017


(from the archives)

LONESOME ROAD (reviewed by Al Tucher)


By George Harsh.

Since 1986 I have worked as a cataloger at the Newark Public Library, which has existed since 1883. The library has some very deep collections, and exploring them is both my job and a perk of my job. A recent project in the biography section brought me into contact with Lonesome Road, a 1971 memoir by George Harsh.


In 1928 Harsh was a rich, arrogant, idle young college student in Georgia. He and other rich, arrogant, idle young men spent much of their time discussing their superiority over the masses and the uses to which they should put that superiority. This was only four years after the Leopold and Loeb case, but it seems part of the “superman” pathology to dismiss possible lessons from anyone else’s experience. The young men in Harsh’s circle decided that they were able and therefore obligated to commit the perfect crime.


For the thrill of it they began a string of armed robberies. When a store clerk resisted, Harsh was the one holding the gun and the one who fired the lethal shot.


The police easily caught the young supermen, and Harsh was sentenced to death. His codefendants received life sentences, and the prosecutor, troubled by the disparity, succeeded in having Harsh’s sentence commuted to life. Writing years later, Harsh is unsparing toward his young self. He deserved to hang, he says, but he received more mercy than he had shown with the gun in his hand.


He spent the next several years on a Georgia chain gang that was brutal even by the standards of the time and place. Eventually, he became a trusty with a job as an orderly in a prison hospital.


Here we encounter the first of several plot twists that only reality can get away with writing. When an inmate needed an emergency appendectomy, a freak ice storm kept the staff physicians from reaching the hospital. Harsh, who had assisted at several such operations, performed the surgery and saved the man’s life. The governor of Georgia pardoned him.


The year was 1940. George Harsh felt undeserving of peace and security while so much of the world was at war. He traveled north and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Harsh flew numerous bombing missions over Germany. His luck ran out in 1942, when he was shot down. His captors sent him to Stalag Luft III.


Fiction writers, try getting away with that one. In the 1963 film The Great Escape, the character called Intelligence, played by Gordon Jackson, is based on Harsh. He was not one of the 80-plus POWs who made it through the tunnel before it was discovered, which was just as well. Only a handful made it to safety. The rest were recaptured, and the Gestapo summarily executed more than fifty of them.


Harsh survived a brutal forced march westward, away from the advancing Red Army. His narrative ends there.


His story does not. In 1945 he was in his mid-thirties and had spent mere days as a grown man neither incarcerated nor at war. In another twist that in its own way might be the strangest of all, he worked for a while as a publisher’s traveling sales representative. The experiment in freedom was not a success. The memory of his crime tormented him, and he attempted suicide. Later he suffered a stroke, and in 1980 he died.


No collaborator in the writing of this book is named. If it is Harsh’s work, it counts as a remarkable achievement. He knows when and how to make his writing as terse and urgent as Morse code in the night, and his meditations on freedom, imprisonment, violence and war come with a hard-earned authority.


Did George Harsh atone for his crime? It’s a tough call that will vary from reader to reader. Does his book deserve a place on the shelf? In my mind, beyond all doubt.


Sergio Angelini, OUR GAME, John LeCarre
Yvette Banek, CORPSES IN ENDERBY, George Bellairs
Joe Barone, THE BEEKEEPER"S APPRENTICE, Laurie R. King
Bill Crider, ONCE AROUND THE BLOCH, Robert Bloch
Martin Edwards, THE TEST MATCH MURDER, Denzel Batchelor
Richard Horton, THE SUPER BARBARIANS, John Brunner
Jerry House, THE MOON METAL, Garrett P. Serviss
George Kelley, POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON'T LOOK FRIENDLY, Adrian McKinty
Margot Kinberg, LA CONFIDENTIAL, James Ellroy
Rob Kitchin, THE LAST WINTER OF DANI LANCING, P.D. Viner.  
B.V. Lawson, A LONG FATAL LOVE CHASE, Louisa May Alcott
Evan Lewis, WAR AGAINST THE MAFIA, Don Pendleton Steve Lewis, KILLED IN  PARADISE, William I DiAndrea
Todd Mason, POPCORN AND SEXUAL POLITICS: Movie Review from Kathi Maio
Neer, THE THIRD EYE, Ethel Lina White 
J.F. Norris, GARNETT WESTON
Matt Paust, THE COREY FORD SPORTING TREASURY, Chuck Petrie, editor
Reactions to Reading, THE CASE OF THE LATE PIG, Margery Allingham
James Reasoner, JUST THE WAY IT IS, James Hadley Chase
Gerard Saylor, THE BODY LOVERS, Mickey Spillane
Kevin Tipple, IT HAPPENED ONE KNIFE, Jeffrey Cohen
TomCat, THE TIME OF LONDON ANTHOLOGY OF DETECTIVE STORIES, John Sladek
TracyK, DEALBREAKER, Harlen Coben
Westlake Review, BAD NEWS, Part 2

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Expectations

A friend loaned us a book she had just read, THE WIDOW, Fiona Barton, which she was so-so about. Her main complaint was the ending. This friend is mostly a reader of crime fiction, and in particular, police procedurals and the better series of cozies. She is a very bright woman. Phil picked it up and found no problem with the ending. Now he doesn't read cozies at all and mostly reads literary fiction (or whatever you want to call it). Their expectations on what the ending would bring were very different. Yet he can also enjoy a twisty read as much as the next guy.

I ran into this again today when someone online reviewed a book called THE BOY WHO NEVER WAS (Karen Perry), which he disliked. It sounded intriguing to me so I looked at a lot of reviews and found traditional crime readers were unhappy with it but those looking for more mainstream novel liked it a lot.

Do your expectations vary with the kind of book you are reading? Do you require a big finish on a book that is not crime?

What do you require from a novel in general?Does it differ with different genres?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Forgotten TV: MIDSOMER MURDERS: "Writtten in Blood"



This episode is from 1998 and quite entertaining. I haven't seen many of these because they put Phil to sleep but I enjoyed this one a lot. A writer's group invites a famous author to visit. One of the group seems threatened by his visit. I never could have guessed why. The scream from the housekeeper at the start is perhaps the longest one I've ever heard.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday Night Music


Things That Make Me Happy

My mother would have been 94 today. I admire many things about my mother-how little she complained in life; how rarely she said bad things about anyone; how she was never petty, mean, or unfair; how much she enjoyed politics-although she never would have been able to endure what has happened now. I'm happy to have had her for my mother. I wish she was with me still.

A fabulous production at the Stagecrafters Theater in Royal Oak of Lady Day at the Emerson Grill with the terrific Anita Newby. Is there anything better than good theater? I don't think so.

Having my son, grandson and DIL here during the Great Michigan power outage. Such fun sitting together and watching Planet Earth.

Hearing about how when the doctor checked my grandson after a collision in hockey and asked him who the president was, he answered, "I can't say his name." The doctor said. "Well who was the last President," and Kevin said, "Obama."

How much I admire Sonia Sotomayor as I read her memoir: MY BEAUTIFUL WORLD.
At ten years old, she found her role model in Perry Mason. As a child of limited means with diabetes, she reasoned law was something she could pursue.And round it back again, my mother worshiped Raymond Burr as Perry Mason.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, March 10, 2017

(from the archives: Bill Peschel)

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. By Paul Malmont
In the 1930s, the heyday of the pulp era, magazines like "Thrilling Detective," "Amazing Stories" and the like kicked ass, took names, and shaped the morals of millions of American readers. The writers who created the heroes like Doc Savage and The Shadow worked under impossible deadlines for pennies a word to give us tales of the fantastic, of Oriental criminal gangs, dens of vice and iniquity, weird villains, two-fisted heroes and dames to be ornamental and rescued. At its height, as a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard reminds us in "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril," 30,000,000 pulps were bought every month. It took the paper shortages of World War II to knock them down, and they were finished off by television in the ‘50s, but they left us a legacy of heroes that include Conan and Tarzan, cult favorite H.P. Lovecraft, and provided the seed that spawned science-fiction and fantasy.Return with me, now, to those thrilling days of yesteryear, with the help of Paul Malmont, who, according to his bio, works in advertising and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two kids.I'm firmly convinced that, at night, he slips out of his brownstone in Park Slope and roams the wilds of Manhattan, battling the forces of evil with mad crimefighting skillz he learned in the mountain fastnesses of Bhutan.Either that, or he's a pulp fiction fan who did a wonderful job of researching the era, and clever enough to cast as his heroes the writers Walter Gibson, Lester Dent, Hubbard (known as "The Flash" because he was quick at the typewriter), with guest appearances by Lovecraft (oh, how I want to tell you how he appears. It's so appropriate!), E.E. "Doc" Smith and Orson Welles.As for the story, well, the title gives it away, and I'm not going to say more. If you're going to read this, it would just spoil the fun. But if you're still on the bubble, I'll say this:
Malmont writes about the pulp fiction world, but the story is told straight. Neat. No purple prose.
The plot makes sense. It's creepy and scary, but doesn't rely on the supernatural.
The writers may have created two-fisted heroes, but they aren't. That's part of the fun.
Malmont plays fair with Hubbard. I'm no fan of Scientology, but I was glad that Hubbard is presented just as you would expect him to be at the beginning of his career. He's ambitious, proud, something of a blowhard, but great sidekick material.
To say more would give away the fun, so let me just say that, if you have any affection for the pulp era, if you smile at the thought of a "GalaxyQuest"-type story set in New York of the Depression-era, or just want a rousing tale without the literary baggage, check out "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril."UPDATE: Thanks to Kaja Foglio, the co-creator of the fabulous "Girl Genius" comic, I found out that Lester Dent's Zeppelin tales are being republished.

Sergio Angelini, THE DEMON OF DARTMOOR, Paul Halter
Yvette Banek, BLACK HEARTS AND SLOW DANCING, Earl Emerson
Joe Barone, NO SHRED OF EVIDENCE, Charles Todd
Elgin Bleecker, SIX DAYS OF THE CONDOR, James Grady
Brian Busby, WIVES AND LOVERS: Margaret Millar
Bill Crider, THE DEATH RIDE, Neil McNeil
Martin Edwards, A TWIST OF THE ROPE, John Bude
Richard Horton, SHE PAINTED HER FACE, DornfordYates
Jerry House FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES, VOl 1
Nick Jones, "THE TERRORISTS", a story by Michael Gilbert
George Kelley, SISTERS OF TOMORROW, Yaszek and Sharp
Margot Kinberg, THE COLD LIGHT OF MOURNING, Elizabeth J. Duncan
Rob Kitchin, THE DETOUR, Andromeda Romano Sax
B.V. Lawson, TRENT'S OWN CASE, E.C. Bentley
Dave Lewis, ANGEL'S FLIGHT, Lou Cameron
Steve Lewis, THE SCORPION SIGNAL, Adam Hall
Todd Mason, A CASE OF RAPE, Chester Himes
John F. Norris, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, Henry Farrell
Matt Paust, PLAINSONG, Kent Haruff
Reactions to Reading, WILDE LAKE, Laura Lippman
James Reasoner, OWL-HOOT HORDE, Clint Douglas
Richard Robinson, LET IT BLEED, Ian Rankin
Gerard Saylor, QUARRY'S CHOICE, Max Allan Collins
TomCat, THE SLIVERED CAGE, John Russell Fearn
TracyK, A LONELY PLACE TO DIE, Wessel Ebersohn

Thursday, March 09, 2017

#IWD in the Detroit are was celebrated by women filling out postcards to go to Trump and Ryan. The site was made eerier by a massive power failure (1,000,0000 homes). So there were thousands of women scurrying around with candles and flashlights and red hats filling bags with postcards. Yay, woman of the Detroit area. You inspire me. Not sure what I wrote on the postcard but hopefully the address was right.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017


The bull is old but the girl facing it down is new. You know what today is....#IWD.


Roseanne

Watching CNN's series on THE HISTORY OF COMEDY, which I have to say gives short shrift to too many things and the clips are too short, but it still reminds me of what TV shows that really nailed particular eras or issues. Although I enjoyed sitcoms in the fifties and sixties, they were not portraying the real world for most people. It was the ideal world or their idea of it. What shows were most honest in portraying life to you but at the same time were funny. I would choose Roseanne as one although my husband detests it. Or rather her.  But that was how life was for a lower middle-class family in the eighties-nineties. This scene could be from most plays I have seen off-Broadway.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Monday Night Music


Forgotten TV: THIRTY SOMETHING: episode COUPLES

In the famous film, Rashomon, as we all know, Kurosawa shows the same incident from various viewpoints. When THIRTY-SOMETHING did this in 1987 in its fourth episode, it had never been done to such effect on TV. Two couples (Hope and Michael and Nancy and Elliot) go out to dinner at an over-priced restaurant. A quarrel breaks out between the always bickering, Nancy and Elliott. Over the course of the show we see the quarrel from all four of their viewpoints. It involves Nancy doing a drum majorette routine which is sexy, awkward, or ordinary depending on whose eyes saw it. One of the best episodes of a show that is either a favorite or a joke to most people. I stand with those who pick favorite. Yes, yes, they whined incessantly but they were not the wealthy, privileged Ewings or others who came later. And they were certainly not the families seen on BIG LITTLE LIES today.Educated and from the upper middle-class but not rich. And whose problems don't seem trivial to others.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Monday Night Music


Things That Make Me Happy

That we had a perfect week in Key West with our oldest friends and that we still find things to talk about 24-7. (Books, movies, plays, politics, kids, common friends, our past). Hope you each have friends like this.

That Jordan Peele made such a smart, funny, scary movie: GET OUT. The more I thought about it, the better it got. We saw it in a theater full of 20- somethings on a Tuesday night.

That the team from LaLa Land showed such class in realizing MOONLIGHT had won and immediately stepping aside.

That my grandson can draw a picture like this one at age 10. I couldn't do it now. He can also skate like the wind.

That I enjoyed two books on my trip, SISTERLAND by Curtis Sittenfeld and THE ICE BENEATH HER by Camilla Grebe (Swedish). Although I have to say I figured the second one out halfway through much to Phil's consternation. And that is my gripe with books that depend too heavily on whodunit. If you figure it out, the incentive to finish it nosedives. Still a good story.

That GIRLS' Lena Dunham managed to write such a smart episode of GIRLS (American Bitch). Matthew Rhys made the perfect seductor and bravely she allowed her character to fall into it. Only in the last seconds does it feel like a TV episode and not a one-act play. Like her or not, like GIRLS or not, she is brilliant.

Friday, March 03, 2017