Monday, February 26, 2024

Friday, February 23, 2024

Friday's Forgotten Books: SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN, Bill Crider

 (reviewed by Ed Gorman)

Bill Crider's new Survivors Will Be Shot Again may be my favorite of all the Sheriff Dan Rhodes novels for two reasons.


  If you think Crider was funny before, wait until you read the scene where Rhodes walks into a convenience store and goes into a mental rage about how Dr. Pepper refuses to sell the original sugar DP online. Good thing he comes to notice that he has walked into a robbery. Ultimately he has to take the gunman's weapon away by throwing a loaf of bread at him. That's the first chapter.
  The regulars are at their best and or worst.
  The enterprising young woman who got laid off as reporter on the local weekly is back again with her very successful online newspaper of newish kinds of stories that  she sometimes "enhanced" for the sake of excitement. She has turned the mild mannered Rhodes into a local bad ass of heroic stature.
   Hawk and Lawton, the two elderly deputies who who make Rhodes' day miserable by trying to force information out of him by withholding other information ("in the loop") from him. 
   Seepy Benton, erstwhile community college professor and very very amateur crime solver, is pushing what was originally a ghost repellent spray but will also work if nudists are invading your domicile.
   Wal Mart-- there are so many references you get the feeling that Wal Mart is  the official church of the small Texas town.
   And lest I forget...the discovery of several illegal marijuana patches...guarded by junior sized alligators.   
  Then there is the A storyline. There have been break-ins on ranch and farm buildings. Curiously one of the men whose outbuilding had been broken into and robbed is found murdered in a building owned by another man who had been robbed earlier. Given the material that gets taken the robberies are peculiar indeed.
  Bill Crider writes some the finest traditional mysteries around. He is a first rate plotter who also knows how to pace his material. Such a mixture of mystery, humor and even an occasional horrific moment give his work its unique mastery.
  I grew up reading the now mostly forgotten Sinclair Lewis  He frequently wrote about small towns and their social ways in the 1920s and 1940s especially. He was both brutal and hilarious. His one novel that is still taught in college (several famous workshops won't teach him because he was allegedly a bad writer line by line) is Babbitt. The storyline paints a portrait of a boorish "booster" who extols American virtues that are actually American vices. But there are three scenes in which Lewis forces you to at least understand Babbitt to some degree and after you read them you can't quite find him as repellent as you once did.  
   Bill Crider does the same thing here with his suspects. They are not likable. But as Crider reveals their back stories you see that in some way they are broken men.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

"The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" Irwin Shaw


This is one of the great short stories for me. A husband and wife, walking in New York, confront the issue that he cannot stop looking at women passing them on the street . The wife admits that this is ruining their marriage, breaking her heart. She says that he will eventually, if he hasn't already, act on it. And he cannot really deny this. He claims he is helpless not to look over any woman who comes into his view. They have planned a day for just the two of them: a football game, dinner, a French movie, but by the end of their walk they change their plans and go to spend the day with friends. 

I am very glad that I did not have a husband that did this. Or if he did, I never noticed. 

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley 

Casual Debris 

Jerry House

Monday, February 19, 2024

Monday, Monday

 I am pretty much moved in, but now I have to pack for CA. Sort of exhausting-I always overpack, taking everything that might be needed despite there being a CVS a block away. Have I ever used the bandaids, neosporin, list of passwords, address book, knee braces, multiple sunhats, eye glasses, etc. I take? 

Reading COCKTAILS WITH GEORGE AND MARTHA-about the making of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe. Watching the finale of MONSIEUR SPADE and TRUE DETECTIVE tonight. Enjoying MR and MRS SMITH. Rewatching FREAKS AND GEEKS after listening to a podcast on it. Still watching NORTHERN EXPOSURE, which was such an original show. The third season is terrific.

Watched JIRO-DREAMS OF SUSHI. Jiro was 85 when they made this doc and 15 years later at 100 he is still massaging fish in his restaurant. It looks like good sushi is about the quality of the fish you can get and how long you rub it.

I will post MONDAY, MONDAY for the next three weeks although it will be empty, waiting for you. I will read it on my cellphone but I can never seem to get anything much on there. 

Friday, February 16, 2024

FFB: City of Nets; A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s, Otto Friedrich


Donating books for the last five years, probably exceeding a thousand by now, it's been hard to decide what is worth keeping if I have already read it. I discarded a biography of Raymond Carver but not a collection of his stories. Same too with John Cheever. Shirley Jackson's bio went, but I still have a few of the novels. I held on to most of the short story collections but not many of the novels. I got rid of TOM LAKE (Ann Patchett) immediately after reading it only to have to hunt it down when my book group chose it for their March read.

CITY OF NETS, one of the classics on Hollywood I kept. The first time I read this book, I found a large section of the book was missing. So in time I bought another used copy and was able to finish it. World War II makes the forties an interesting era in Hollywood. Especially the influx of talented actors, writers and directors escaping from Europe. Friedrich skillfully weaves biographical sketches with historical information. He is especially interested in the immigrants who came to dominate the film business very quickly. Also fun to read about how our new enemies (esp. Japan and German) made for the new villains in various films.

This, along with ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE, by William Goldman are two of the best books about the movies although the later is a bit dated. 

What I can't decide about is the many small literary and crime fiction outlets where my stories appeared over the years. Many of the stories are in my two collections but many are not. But realistically who is going to read them after I'm gone. I'm not Alice Munro or John Cheever. And they take up too much room.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

"The President of the Louisiana Live Oak Society" Ellen Gilchrist


Ellen Gilchrist was one of those writers who I read as soon as her book turned up in the library years ago. She wrote short stories, novels, and memoirs. They were set in the romantic South of the 70s-2000. And I had forgotten all about the pleasure she gave me until I saw her death notice today. I was able to download IN THE LAND OF THE DREAMY DREAM for $3 on Amazon. She is often funny. "He put up with a lot from Leila because she had been named to the list of Beautiful Activists two years in a row." (This is her hair dresser)

In this story, which is surprising, funny and sad, in turns, Robert, a teenager, has made friends with Gus, a boy who spends most of his time sitting under the town's huge live oak tree. Gus is black and Robert's white mother secretly disapproves of this friendship but considers herself too liberal to act on her fear. And they are up to no good, selling dope and using it themselves. This makes it sound like it's a cautionary or scary story. But mostly it is not either and it ends quite dramatically or oddly depending on how much latitude you give Ms. Gilchrist. 


Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple 


Jerry House