Wednesday, July 01, 2015

WHY I WRITE DARK: Behind the Book

Why I Write Dark

The Best Whodunnit of All Time

And although I am not that big of a Christie fan, I can't think of another book that so knocked me out at the conclusion than THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD.

What books should join this as the best whodunnits?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tuesday's Forgotten Movie: THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK

Last week we went to Stratford, Ontario where we saw HAMLET, CAROUSEL and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. Which of course called to mind the 1959 film. It starred Millie Perkins, Shelly Winters, Joseph Schilakraut, Diane Baker and Richard Beymer and was a very respectful version of the Diary as directed by George Stevens..

As this was a very respectful version of the play.

I would like to think an updated version might seems less dated, but I fear the work is so iconic that no one can really touch it. It is probably the most powerful book I read as a child and perhaps even as an adult.

Did Anne's death two weeks before the camp's liberation do more to illustrate the horrors of the Nazis than her survival would have? Would the book have been published if she had lived? Would we treat it with such reverence? I hope so. What are your thoughts? Can the play be updated or is it untouchable? Could it be set in one of the many places where people must hide from horrific regimes?

Here is a scene from the Stratford production.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Anthony Ambrogio's Bookshelf

What books are currently on your nightstand?
The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogio, a historical account of a nineteenth-century convent scandal (which I bought partly for the title but which I’m having a hard time slogging through) and The Golden Apples of the Sun, a Ray Bradbury anthology—the original paperback that I purchased for 40 cents back in 1961.

Who is your all-time favorite novelist?
Who indeed? Of Mice and Men is one of my all-time favorite novels, but I don’t know that Steinbeck is my all-time favorite novelist. I admire Faulkner’s style (over someone like, say, Hemingway), and I’ve certainly read most of his work (As I Lay Dying multiple times), but I don’t know if he’s my favorite novelist, either. I used to read everything that Kurt Vonnegut wrote, but I’m not as enamored of him as I used to be. My wife just reminded me about Virginia Woolf, an author whose entire novelist canon I’ve read and enjoyed (especially To the Lighthouse).

What book might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Three Comrades by Eric Maria Remarque because it is essentially and mostly a romance (as in “love story”), something I don’t usually gravitate toward. (But I saw and loved the 1938 movie—co-scripted by F. Scott Fitzgerald—when I was about 12 and had to get/read the book.)

Who is your favorite fictional character?
I struggled with this one and could come up with no satisfactory answer. I was thinking Odysseus, the original hero on a journey, but not all of his qualities are admirable. Ditto Yossarian in Catch-22. I suppose I must have one, but I don’t know who s/he is.
What book do you return to?
Already mentioned Of Mice and Men and As I Lay Dying above. Maybe Stephen King’s It, Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine—or Nightmares and Geezenstacks, a horror anthology of short stories by Fredric Brown (the first and greatest practitioner of what is now called “flash fiction”).
 Bio: Anthony Ambrogio, 66, life-long resident of Detroit (and environs) until January 2015, when we moved to Cape Cod. Major claim to fame: Married to poet-novelist Anca Vlasopolos; two daughters. Minor claim to fame: numerous articles and reviews in periodicals like Midnight Marquee, Monsters from the Vault, and Video Watchdog. Strives for fiction-publication credits but so far has only a very few short stories to show for it. (Photo attached.)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Lesson of the Five Lillys

appears in DEEP SOUTH MAGAZINE. It is light and summery.

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, June 26, 2015

 TELL NO ONE, Harlan Coben

I wanted a fast-paced suspense novel for a recent trip and had never read one by Harlan Coben. I consulted lists and this one was near the top of every one. So despite having seen a French film version of TELL NO ONE, I picked it up. It did not disappoint except in several curious and informative ways. The book was written in 2001 and it leaned heavily on the ways computers were used and worked in that era. Because most of this is dated now, it took me out of the story several times. I am not sure if there is an equivalent technology that seemed so dated a few years later. In other words, if people talked about listening to the radio in a book written in 1930, it would not occupy so much space and it would not bring the story to a halt if read today.

So a good lesson here: do not base your story too much on current technology. Putting this aside, this was a pretty good thriller although there was no real attempt to have any character development or attention to setting. It was plot, plot, plot.

Beck, a pediatrician, and his wife, Elizabeth,  have been together since childhood and have developed many rituals to celebrate aspects of that love. On one such celebration, the wife disappears. A serial killer is tried and convicted and eight years pass.

Suddenly, Beck receives a message that seems to be from his wife that says, "TELL NO ONE" at the end. Various forces come into play: cops, villains, the wife's family, Beck's family as this is all sorted out.

Clearly Coben has a gift for keeping the reader engaged. He knows how to twist the plot. His characters are likable, violence is mostly offstage. He is able to juggle a lot of plot strains pretty efficiently. A good summer read but not a book that will send me back to the shelves. 

Mark Baker, THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME, Krista Davis
Joe Barone, SWEET, SAVAGE DEATH, Jane Haddam
Les Blatt, DEATH IN ECSTASY, Ngaio Marsh
Elgin Bleecker, SOLDIER IN THE RAIN, William Goldman
Brian Busby, THE EMPIRE BUILDERS, Robert Steed
Martin Edwards, ELEVEN, Patricia Highsmith
Curt Evans, KILL A BETTER MOUSETRAP Scott Ratner
Ed Gorman, THE PLASTIC NIGHTMARE, Richard Neely
John Hegenberger, THE PROTEUS OPERATION, James Brogan
Rick Horton, A LOST LADY, Willa Cather
Jerry House: GREAT BALLS OF FIRE,  Harry Harrison
Randy Johnson, THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY, Charles Willeford
George Kelley, THE GOLDEN AGE OF MURDER, edited by Martin Edwards
Margot Kinberg, SIMON SAID, Sarah Shaber
Rob Kitchin, THE LONG HOME, William Gay; THE INTERROGATOR, Andrew Williams
B.V. Lawson, PICTURE MISS SEATON,  Heron Carvic
Evan Lewis, THE CONAN TRILOGY, Andrew J. Offutts
Todd Mason, MIMOSA, Nicki and  Rick Lynch
Steve Lewis/Dan Stumpf, SOME CAME RUNNING, James Jones
Gerard Saylor, THE FARM, Tom Robb Smith
James Reasoner, TURN ON THE HEAT, A.A. Fair
Richard Robinson, WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE MURDER, Bill Crider
Kevin Tipples. BURN, Jonathan Lyons
TracyK, HOPE, Len Deighton

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Libby Fisher Hellman's Bookshelf

What books are currently on your nightstand?

Only a few… let’s see:

n  A memoir of a woman in the WACs during WW2 and posted to Europe: “Molly’s War”
n  The Swimmer
n  A God in Ruins
n  All The Light We Cannot See
n  The Guns of August
n  And The Mountains Echoed
n  The Secrets of Bletchley Park

Who is your all-time favorite novelist?

For all his “oeuvre” – probably James Cain
For one novel: Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

What book might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

The King James version of the Bible

Who is your favorite fictional character?

It changes often, but right now I’m torn between Lisbeth Salander and Scarlett O’Hara – actually, maybe they’re not so different after all…

What book do you return to?

I really don’t return to books once I’ve read them.


My next release, which should be toward the end of June, is a historical novella called The Incidental Spy. It’s about a German refugee who is forced to spy on the Manhattan Project during its early years at the U. of Chicago. It will be out in ebook on Stark Raving Press and also in print, at all the usual suspects.

Deb's Bookshelf

What books are currently on your nightstand?
I’m reading Sebastien Japrisot’s Women in Evidence, a man’s life written in the voices of eight different women.  I’m also reading Intimate Lies: The Story of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham written by Graham’s son, Robert Westbrook.  (It’s the book I’m reading above.)  I got interested in this book after reading Stewart O’Nan’s West of Sunset, a fictionalization of the last few years of Fitzgerald’s life when he worked in Hollywood and was involved with Graham.
Who is your favorite novelist of all times?
I couldn’t narrow it down to more than about five and I’m all over the map:  Henry James, Anthony Trollope, Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, Barbara Pym, and (of course) Agatha Christie.  But ask me tomorrow and my answers might be completely different.
What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Probably former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Never Again and Sarah Palin’s America by Heart.  Full disclosure:  These were gag gifts from my husband.  He annotated them—heavily and hilariously—before he gave them to me.  (I made it through Never Again, but there’s not enough snarky commentary in the world to help me make it past page 37 of Palin’s word salad of a book.)
Who is your favorite fictional hero?
I gravitate toward self-aware yet self-effacing heroines:  Elizabeth Bennett in Pride & Prejudice, Elinor Dashwood in Sense & Sensibility, Mildred Lathbury in Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women (in fact, almost all of Pym’s main female characters), Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables, any number of Agatha Christie’s spunky and bright young things like Tuppence Beresford.
What book do you return to?
I find myself rereading Daphne du Maurier’s The Parasites at least once every couple of years.  It’s the story of three siblings in continental Europe between the wars and in England after the war, and it has a very complex narrative structure (all three seem to narrate simultaneously).  It was the first book for which I wrote an FFB review.  I’m sorry du Maurier has fallen so out of favor and, other than Rebecca, is not read much these days.
I’m married with three children.  After 20 years in the corporate world as a technical writer, I became a stay-at-home mom for a few years.  Then, over a decade ago, I returned to work as an aide in the public schools.  I currently work in a special ed classroom with severely-autistic students.  It’s a challenging job, but very rewarding.  I love to read across all genres, but mysteries are my favorite.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

 I watched THE STATION AGENT again yesterday as I ironed my way into oblivion. And, I thought, I must have posted about that one before. And here is is from 2013. I swear Peter Drinkage doesn't look a day older.


 My Ten Favorite Quirky Forgotten Movies(from the archives)

1980-Gloria, directed by John Cassavetes, starring Gene Rowlands-A mobster's widow protects a orphaned boy. Love this one.

1994 Shallow Graves-directed by Danny Boyle, Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, Ian McGregor, three roommates need a fourth and don't bargain for what they get.

1977-Three Woman-directed by Robert Altman. Sissy Spacek, Shelly Duval, Janice Rule-Three women exchange personas as they forge a family.

1981-Cutter's Way-directed by Ivan Passer-great novel and movie. Jeff Bridges and John Heard. Bridges witnesses a murder and goes after the killer.

1996-Hard Eight, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, A newly minted gambler runs afoul of a femme fatale

1996 Day Trippers-directed by Greg Mottola -A family takes a road trip into the city when a rogue love letter falls into a wife's hands.

2009 Cairo Time. directed by Ruba Madda Patricial Clarkson plays a woman alone in Cairo who has a whirlwind romance.

2003 The Station Agent, directed by Thomas McCarthy-Patricia Clarkson, Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannevale- Three lonely people connect.

2007 Lars and the Real Girl-Directed by Craug Gillespie. Ryan Gosling. A young man cannot be dissuaded from his love for a blowup doll.

1974-CockFighter-directed by Monte Hellman-Warren Oates, Harry Dean Stanton-a man years to be the world's greatest cock fighter.