Saturday, September 23, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Forgotten Movies; GHOST STORY

This was a bit of a disappointment.I am not sure why the story seemed laid out poorly. And the acting was strange. Especially Craig Wasson, whose acting style didn't jibe at all with the four older actors. I loved the book and think if I read it again now I would still like it because there are good bones here. I think the direction is poor too. Perhaps the limitations of four elderly men impeded it as well. Also there was an awful lot of story to be told.
In summary: Four successful elderly gentlemen, members of the Chowder Society, share a gruesome, 50-year old secret. When one of Edward Wanderley's twin sons dies in a bizarre accident, the group begins to see a pattern of frightening events developing.
Read the book, skip the movie.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday Night Music

Things That Make Me Happy

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, I struggled to get into this. Some books require a deeper focus than I have had lately to appreciate their worth. And this was one of them. But now I "get" it and am really enjoying it. The beauty of the prose and the deep rendering of a character and place really hooked me.

Really enjoyed watching Kevin perform with his Monday night School of Rock group. Amazing to see these elementary school kids, sing, keyboard, play drums and guitar. They have so much stage presence already. And they all love it. They performed at a bar at noon, which was an odd experience but the stage and lighting was terrific.

Enjoyed the first episode of THE DEUCE. We had some friends over and they didn't get it at all. Their only TV watching is sports, news and Downton Abbey. They also don't read novels. They have trouble with narrative and they have no historical context for what a show like this is trying to do. So they were mystified, but we loved it. 

The weather still rocks. Our new sprinkler system is keeping our lawn florescent green despite the lack of rain.

Phil has had the cataracts removed from both eyes. Glad that is over with. Certainly the year for doctors. Hope we get some respite from it.

What about you?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The New Collection Debuts at the end of February

The majority of these stories appeared in anthologies, lit journals and fairly obscure venues. None were in MONKEY JUSTICE. One is brand new. I am very thankful that Jason Pinter was willing to take a chance on a collection. I know the sales for these are even lower than the sales for novels from unknown authors. There are about 25 stories in here. They vary in POV, setting, etc, but almost none are terribly violent. Thanks to the editors that first published them. They allowed me to forge a writing career of sorts. If you had told me a decade ago, I would have three books, two ebooks and over 140 stories, been nominated for four awards, I would have fallen into a dead faint. Hey Mom and Dad, I did amount to something.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 15, 2017

Forgotten Stories


This is a very short story that is discussed, filmed and anthologized repeateldy if you google it. You can read it right here.
A woman with a heart condition is brought news about the crash of a train that her husband was traveling on. She sits looking out the window, going through various stages of grief and ending up in an unexpected place. I won't tell you how it ends but you might suspect it. A bit of an O' Henry ending but beautifully written and making the interesting observation that we don't always know ourselves well. If you go to You Tube you can see many student productions of it. It must be often assigned.

Sergio Angelini, PAST TENSE, Margot Kinberg
Yvette Banek, THE HOUSE AT SEA'S END, Elly Griffiths. 
Elgin Bleecker, Final Jeopardy, Linda Fairstein
Martin Edwards, MURDER MARS THE TOUR, Mary Fit
Richard Horton,  Bow Down to Nul, by Brian W. Aldiss/The Dark Destroyers, by Manly Wade Wellman
Jerry House, THE WIND LEANS WEST, August Derleth 
George Kelley,  DAVID FALKAYN: STAR TRADER,  Poul Anderson
Margot Kinberg, THE DAWN PATROL, Don Winslow
B.V. Lawson, THE MOONSHINE WAR, Elmore Leonard
Evan Lewis, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, Ian Fleming
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, NO MATCH FOR THE LAW, Osmington Mills
Neer, LOST AMONG THE LIVING, Simone St.James
Scott Parker, THE SUN RISES WEST,  Oscar J. Friend
Matt Paust, THE AWAKENING, Kate Chopin
James Reasoner, THE EMPIRE OF DOOM, John Peter Drummond
Kevin Tipple, DICE ANGEL, Brian Rouff
TomCat, NO KILLER HAS WINGS, Joel Hoffman
TracyK, BUSMAN'S HOLIDAY, Dorothy Sayers

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Night Music

Remembering Glen through Alison.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Watching Freaks and Geeks for the First Time

Gee, this is a great little show. Even set in Michigan. Fun to see so many faces that went on to great careers. Many appear in just one episode (Lizzy Kaplan, Rashida Jones, etc.)

You guys ever watch it?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Along with ICE STORM and SHOOT THE MOON, this is one my favorite depictions of an unhappy family. I think they get so many thing right. Especially how a narcissist can fall apart when his supremacy is threatened. Jeff Daniel is able to embrace the character's flaws. Laura Linney is always good. This is an early performance by Jesse E. before his tics became embedded for life. It looks and feels right.Kudos to Noah Bambach.

So many films about dysfunctional families. What is a good one about a happy family?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

We have had so much much perfect weather, I feel guilty with what is going on in other areas.

Happy Kevin made a friend his first week in a new school.

Went with my friend, Mary, to see what may become (although I doubt it) a Broadway musical. Called Johnny Manhattan it's about the last night of a nightclub in 1958 Manhattan. Terrific cast but the music was just not good enough. The singing was terrific though. You kept waiting for them to play a song from that era but it was all original music and not memorable. However the set was good and it was enjoyable.

Happy we got Acorn this week. Once we could stream in through Amazon, $5 a month seemed worth it.

Happy that it seems like we got through these horrific weather events without the sort of death toll Katrina saw. Fingers crossed. 

And what about you?

Friday, September 08, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, Sepember 8, 2017

(from the archives)

COMPULSION by Meyer Levin

(Review by Deb)
Meyer Levin's COMPULSION is a lightly-fictionalized account of the sensational Leopold and Loeb murder case that gripped the nation in the mid-1920s.  Meyer's fictionalization (published in 1956) is very light indeed, with much of the dialog being taken verbatim from transcripts of police records and court testimony.  Even so, the novel is more than just a retelling of a senseless and horrific crime, it is a perceptive study of what the French call a folie-a-deux, wherein two people who are utterly toxic for each other are none-the-less hopelessly attracted to each other and, in the thrall of that attraction, commit acts that neither would necessarily have done without the dark-mirror image of the other goading them on.
In Levin's book, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb become Judd Steiner and Artie Strauss, neighbors in Chicago's wealthy and close-knit German-Jewish community. (There's a small but telling detail when Judd informs his aunt that he's going out with a girl named Ruth Goldenberg and his aunt sighs, "Oh, Russian-Jewish I suppose.")  Both men were child prodigies who had graduated from university by the time they were 18 years old.  As the book begins, both of them are still in their teens (as is Sid Silver, a newspaperman who narrates part of the book and plays a pivotal role in uncovering some of the evidence).  Adopting the guise of Nietzschean "supermen" who do not need to follow the laws applicable to average beings, Steiner and Strauss plan the "perfect murder."  They eventually kidnap a randomly-selected neighborhood boy on his way home from school.  They kill the boy, pour acid on the corpse, hide the body in a drainage ditch, and then put into motion an elaborate red-herring of a kidnapping-ransom plot.
This perfect murder rapidly unravels, starting with the victim's body being quickly discovered and identified.  Then damning evidence stacks up against the men:  Steiner's glasses--traced to him by their unique hinge mechanism--are found beside the victim, there is blood on the back seat of a car the men have rented, papers typed on Steiner's discarded typewriter match the typing on the bogus ransom notes, and Strauss's attempts to inject himself into the investigation (in order to discover how much the press and police actually know) backfire spectacularly.  Their alibis in shreds, the men confess to the crime, each blaming the other for striking the fatal blow (although, as Sid Silver points out, in that regard, one of them had to be telling the truth).
Considering that the book was written in the 1950s about a crime in the 1920s, one aspect that I found surprising (and rather refreshing) was its refusal to take the "easy" way out and blame the men's actions on the fact that they were closeted lovers, although society at the time certainly did, blaming all manner of depraved behavior on homosexuality.  However, narrator Sid Silver is puzzled by how much stress the authorities place on the men's relationship and asks of it, "In all the history of human behaviour, of the sick and ugly and distorted and careless and sportive and mistaken things that humans did, was this so much more?" 
In fact, Levin does not present the men as sexually "set," but rather most likely bisexual, with Judd being more interested in dominance and submission rather than the gender of his partner, and Artie using his good looks, affable facade, and charisma to attract both men and women.  I was also surprised at the frankness of the book, given the time it was written--Judd's dark fantasies, especially involving rape, are quite explicit.  Levin's book makes us feel if not sympathy then at least some understanding, particularly for the intense and brooding Judd whose infatuation with the manipulative and self-centered Artie is as inexplicable as its dreadful outcome is inevitable.
But I've only covered the first half of the book.  The second half, which centers on the mens' trial, is interesting, although it drags in places due to pages of legal arguments and long-winded explanations of Freudian psychology with which we are now completely familiar.  In order to avoid a jury trial and a sure death penalty, Steiner and Strauss plead guilty in the hopes that arguing before a judge might result in a life, rather than a death, sentence.  Aging lawyer Jonathan Wilk (a fictionalized Clarence Darrow) mounts a brilliant legal defense at their sentencing hearing that saves the men from execution, although they both receive sentences of “Life plus 99 years.”  And, other than a brief coda, there the book abruptly ends, with Steiner and Straus entering prison and fading from public memory. 
But this abruptness works in the book's favor by indicating that there will be other events and other atrocities that will come to overshadow the "crime of the century."  First of all, the rise of "some gangster named Al Capone" (as he is described in an offhand remark by one of Sid's colleagues about a gangland shooting) and the associated violence of Prohibition.  And then the actual "crime of the century"--the Nazi atrocities of World War II and everything the world was to learn about the "Superman" ideal and where it leads.
Meyer Levin wrote this book in part to assist Nathan Leopold in his attempt to be granted parole, which finally happened in 1958. Leopold moved to Puerto Rico, married, worked as an x-ray technician, and died in 1971.  Richard Loeb was not so fortunate: In 1936, he was stabbed multiple times by a fellow inmate who claimed Loeb had made sexual advances toward him.  Although the story was easily discounted, especially since Loeb was covered with defensive wounds and the inmate who killed him was unscathed, no charges were ever filed in his death.

Sergio Angelini, TILL DEATH DO US PART, John Dickson Carr
Yvette Banek, WHO KILLED THE CURATE Joan Coggin
Les Blatt, THE CHINESE BELL MURDERS, Robert Van Gulik
Bill Crider, THE PLUTONIUM BLONDE, John Zakour and Lawrence Ganen
Fleur Bradley,  MANIAC MAGEE, Jerry Spinelli
Martin Edwards, NIGHT EXERCISE, John Rhode
Curt Evans, DEBBIE DOWNER DOUBLE DOOM, Josephine Bell, George Orwell
Richard Horton, THE LONELY, Paul Gallico
Jerry House, WEIRD TALES, anon
George Kelley, THE DEVIL's ROSARY, Seabury Quinn
Margot Kinberg, THE EARTH HUMS IN B FLAT, Mari Stachan
Rob Kitchin, A LOVE STORY WITH MURDERS, Harry Bingham
Evan Lewis, Forgotten Comics and the Forgotten Record They Spawned
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, THE BURGLAR WHO TRADED TED WILLIAM, Lawrence Block
Todd Mason, 1960s Crime Magazines in English
Matt Paust, THE LAST GENTLEMAN, Walker Percy
James Reasoner, FOUR FRIGHTENED WOMEN, George Harmon Coxe
Gerard Saylor, SWAY, Zachary Lazar
Kerrie Smith, DARK PLACES, Gillian Flynn
Kevin Tipple, GAME FACE, Mary Troy
TomCat, THE FAIR MURDER, Nicholas Brady 
TracyK, DR. NO,Ian Fleming 
Westlake Review, FOREVER AND A DEATH

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

First Wednesdays Book Review Club: IN A LONELY PLACE, Dorothy B. Hughes

If the film version of IN A LONELY PLACE was crafted as a tragic love story, one can never feel the novel was meant to be that. The romance in the novel serves mostly to titillate the psychopathological tendencies of our protagonist, Dix Steele. He is a narcissist incapable of love for anyone but himself. Full of self-pity, and guilty of so many other sins, the book opens with a series of stranglings going on in LA. Dix, a pretend novelist living at the home of a missing friend,  was a heroic figure in the war and reconnects with an old army buddy, Brub who is now a cop and newly married. Then he meets Laurel,  a neighbor. Their romance if it  can be called that is filled with tense situations. This may be one of the tensest books I have ever read. And the resolution is one no man would ever pen.
I have to say that many of Dix's traits reminded me of our current leader: self-pity, the need to seek revenge, extreme narcissism, the ability to only see his side of an argument. And certainly the presence of women brings out the worst in him. This was a terrific novel if you can tolerate an unlikable protagonist. You want to feel some sympathy for him but never can muster up a drop.
The afterword in this new edition by NYRB is by Megan. Rest, Megan, rest.

For more reviews, see Barrie Summy.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Forgotten Movies: IN A LONELY PLACE

Wow, this is very different from the book but no less fantastic. Humphrey Bogart plays Dix Steele an alcoholic screenwriter with a long time between screenplays as the movie opens. He's been through the war and is trying to make a comeback. He meets Gloria Graham early on and there is an immediate attraction. And soon she alibis him for the murder of a hatcheck girl who was in his apartment earlier that night reading him a novel that he might adapt. Dix's problem is he has a temper that just won't quit. He's brutal, perhaps a sociopath. And Gloria has her issues too. This is a tense film and kudos to Bogart for playing such an difficult guy. Such a very sad love story.
Tomorrow we talk about the novel.

For a far better review than I have the time or talent to write, see this one from Roger Ebert. 

New Yorkers, This is playing at the Metrograph on Sept 12th at 7 pm with Megan doing the introduction. God knows where she gets the energy. Not from me. 

Monday, September 04, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

Reading, then seeing, IN A LONELY PLACE. How can two such different versions of a story both work so well. Cheers to Dorothy L. Hughes for her genius in writing both.

Lots more lovely weather in Michigan. We feel so guilty enjoying it when Houston and Louisiana are in such dire straits.

Loved the pilot of THE DEUCE. It is such a novelistic show. It must be written by novelists rather than TV writers, right?

I love Instagram, where I was able to share my son and his family's trip to Niagara Falls and Stratford. Sure in the old days you saw pictures a week later, but now you feel like you are following them around. Thanks to my son, Josh, for being so diligent in snapping his iphone.

Phil finished radiation on Wednesday. They ring a bell and cheer for you as you leave. It's not enough to want to come back though.

Enjoyed WIND RIVER this week. It may have been a bit too violent, but it was essential to show what the victims endured. If you don't feel their pain to some extent, you can't really care about them.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Friday, September 01, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 1, 2017

Naguib Mahfouz, Karnak Café (1974) (Ron Scheer-archives)

 This short novel by Nobel-winning Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz is a sadly melancholy story of the crushing of youthful hope. Set in the 1960s around the time of the 1967 war with Israel, it describes how a generation of young Egyptians, the children of the revolution of 1954, were betrayed and lied to by their government, while being subjected to interrogation and imprisonment by secret police.

Their story is told by an older man (and stand-in for the author), who befriends a gathering of them who are regulars at a Cairo café, Al-Karnak. There they talk of politics and express their idealistic aspirations, both for themselves and their country. Abruptly disappearing for periods of time, they return shaken and demoralized. While in police custody, kept in windowless cells, they have endured harsh treatment and false accusations.
Eventually it’s revealed that they have been coerced into becoming informants, which corrodes their trust in each other and eventually leads to the death of one of them. Two, a loving couple at the story’s start, are driven apart by their guilt and shame.

Karnak Café is a troubling vision of life in a modern police state, and it sheds light for Westerners on the recent struggles in Egypt for freedom and justice. Novella-length, it takes a stand somewhat distant from political events, while clearly throwing its sympathies to the young people who speak on its pages. It is currently available in paper and ebook format at amazon, Barnes&Noble, and AbeBooks. For more of Friday's Forgotten Books, click on over to Patti Abbott's blog.

Sergio Angelini, EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE, Lawrence Block
Yvette Banek, THE CURSE OF THE BRONZE LAMP, Carter Dickson
Elgin Bleecker, A DELIVERY OF FURIES, Victor Canning
Bill Crider, THE XANADU TALISMAN, Peter O'Donnell
Martin Edwards, INSPECTOR FRENCH'S GREATEST CASE, Freeman Wills Croft
Richard Horton, SNOW COUNTRY and A THOUSAND CRANES, Yasunari Kawabata
Jerry House, LOOK OUT FOR SPACE, William F. Nolan
George Kelly, WEEP FOR A BLONDE, Bretty Halliday
Margot Kinberg, THE COLABA CONSPIRACY, Surender Mohan Pathak
Rob Kitchin, HANNS AND RUDOLF, Thomas Harding
B.V. Lawson, SCARED TO DEATH, Felicity Shaw
Steve Lewis, THE WRENCH IS WICKED, Carter Brown
Todd Mason, TABOO and TABOO 2, ed. Paul Neimark
Neer, SHADOW SISTER, Simone Van Der Vlugt
Steven Nester (THE RAP SHEET) THE SWEET RIDE, William Murray
Matt Paust, THE SECOND COMING, Walker Percy
James Reasoner, COLOR HIM DEAD, Charles Runyon
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, Capsule Reviews.
TomCat, ESCAPE FROM THE TOWER, Roger Ormerod
TracyK, THE ABC MURDERS, Agatha Christie

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


A terrific little film that I came across on Netflix. Two 13 year old boys meet when Jake's family inherits a brownstone from a grandfather. Tony is the son of the tenant, a seamstress and dress shop owner. Both boys desire a career in the arts so this immediately bonds them. The parents however are in an immediate war over the rent paid for the dress shop, which is far too low for the neighborhood. No one is a villain and yet no one is totally likable. That's what made it work so well. And sadly, the boys' friendship can't survive the parents' predicament. A wise, sad and complex film.

What film about childhood do you like?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017



So WILL AND GRACE is returning this fall. I can pretty much guarantee I won't watch it. I disliked the original show because although it pretended it was breaking ground in having two gay men as leads, there was barely a single scene that did not play to male homosexual stereotypes. Yes, we like show tunes, yes we think about sex 24 hours a day, yes, we care about our clothes,  yes, we only date male models. You would have to assume from this show that every male homosexual was interchangeable with every other one.

And even more than my dislike of the two male stars was my dislike of the two female stars. Karen was annoying in every scene: bitchy, shrieking voice, bad values, and on and on. And Grace was a poor me sorority girl.

I could never understand what anyone saw in this annoying foursome. Nor in the actors they brought on to play their parents, their dates, their friends.

And I can't believe the new show will be less annoying than the first version.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

It makes me happy that we have good friends that helped us last week with the trips across town to take care of Phil's first cataract surgery. And that includes Todd who did FFB. Not so easy doing radiation in the morning and cataract surgery and followups in the PM. Wow, why don't I drive?

Very happy with the pilot of THE DEUCE. They managed to introduce dozens of characters in a way that made me remember them. The look of it is fantastic, the acting splendid. The dialog superb. It just felt so right. They haven't quite settled into the story yet, but I know that is coming. It must be the biggest cast on TV. The most lavish sets.

Loving IN A LONELY PLACE, which I don't know why I never read before. It is so skilled in its telling. A real course in how to make an unlikable protagonist interesting enough to stick with.

So far, so good with the TV series SPOTLESS, about two brothers dragged into mob activity with their crime scene cleanup business. A bit like Ray Donavan but not so much to ruin it.

Also recommend LAST CHANCE U on Netflix about a bunch of football players at East MS Community College with their last chance to qualify to play professional football.

What about you? 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books. August 25, 2017

                                                  Todd Mason will have the links today.

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