Friday, December 09, 2016

Friday Night Blues Brothers


Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, December 9, 2016


THE WATER'S EDGE, Karen Fossum

This was a very fine novel about a rather tired subject. The abduction and murder of two small boys. It is set up in an interesting manner though. A middle-age couple stumbles on the first body and the husband becomes obsessed with the case, seeing himself as the hero of the story. He even takes pictures of the poor child's body and passes them around.
The writing is very good although I felt the detectives played a very secondary role in this. We got the POV of the abductor and the POV of the couple and the POV of the child's mother and then the second child's mother and her boyfriend. This is certainly a misanthropic view of Norwegian society. There's hardly a good soul to be found. But it is so well-written and constructed you have to finish and admire it.

Sergio Angelini, THE LAST BEST HOPE, Ed McBain
Yvette Banek, OH, JERUSALEM, Laurie King
Joe Barone, PUSHING UP DAISIES, M.C. Beaton
Les Blatt, A PRIVATE VIEW, John Appleby
Elgin Bleecker, FARGO, John Benteen
Brian Busby, Best Books of 1916 (Canada)
Bill Crider, DRAGON WEATHER, Lawrence Watts-Evans
Martin Edwards, THE FASHION IN SHROUDS, Margery Allingham
Curt Evans, My Favorite Thrillers, Part One
Richard Horton, ALIEN SEA, John Rackham, C.O.D. E.C. Tubb
Jerry House, SISTER WENDY'S ODYSSEY, Sister Wendy
Margot Kinberg. RIM OF THE PIT, Hake Talbot
Rob Kitchin, BLACK ROSES, Jane Tynne
B.V. Lawson, SPEAKING OF MURDER, Ed Gorman and Martin Greenberg
Steve Lewis, DESERT GUNS, Steve Frazee
Neer, BEST CRIME STORIES, VOL 3, John Welcome
Matthew Paust, 1776, David McCullough
Reactions to Reading, THE BIRD TRIBUNAL, Agnes Ravatn
James Reasoner, THE OXBOW DEED, D.B. Newton
Richard Robinson, THE LONDON BLITZ MURDERS, Max Allan Collins
Gerard Saylor, ONE ENDLESS HOUR, Dan J. Marlowe
Kerry Smith, DEATH IN AUGUST, Marco Vichi
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THE DRIFTER DETECTIVE, Garnett Elliot
TomCat, BLACK-HEADED PINS, Constance and Gwnyth Little
Westlake Review, COMEBACK, Richard Stark

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Wednesday Night Music: Gaynor and Kelly

First Wednesday Book Review Club: MISS JANE, Brad Watson

MISS JANE is the gorgeously written but often painful story of a girl born with defective genitals at a time when such a thing could not be surgically corrected. Because of Jane's incontinence, she is kept at home and deprived of an education, friends, the world at large. Her doctor becomes one of her few friends and his enjoyment of her intelligence and her, of his, allows her some sense of the community. As she matures she takes some stabs at friendship and romance but retreats as she understands the issues. Jane grows  up in a rural community and Watson is especially adept at describing the sights, sounds and ambience of such a place. Although she is somewhat able to overcome her situation, Watson never makes her into a larger than life character. She is human and you feel her pain.
Apparently the book is based on the life of his great aunt.
The elegance of the writing and the vivid characters make this an excellent read.

For more reviews, consult the wonderful Barrie Summy right here. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Tuesday Night Music: Garland and Kelly

Phanton Lady

I watched  PHANTOM LADY a few nights ago, starring Ella Raines and Franchot Tone, Alan Curtis and the great Thomas Gomez, and although it was interesting, the plot holes seemed enormous. How did the villain know what the patsy was doing while he was killing his wife well enough to go out and bribe the witnesses into saying they hadn't seen the woman wearing the hat. Maybe someone can help me here. Did I fall asleep? I thought it was a weird but not very good film. So much of the acting seemed off. and Tone seemed miscast. I have the book somewhere if I can only find it.


This one is not for those who can't endure pain. It is a story about grief, how to live with it or not live with it. How it affects others. What people do to get through it. Casey Affleck gives one of the bravest, truest, realistic performance I have ever seen. He's in almost every scene and you cannot take your eyes away from his haunted face. The use of overlapping dialog was a terrific choice for allowing the characters to feel related. Michelle Williams is only in a few scenes but her final one knocks it out of the park. The setting is perfect, the characters feel real and they are given time to develop. By the movie's end you could write an essay about each of them--that's how well you know them. Just don't expect to walk out smiling. What humor there is comes from a young actor, Lucas Hedges, who again feels organic. Every line seems perfectly suited to a smart, nice kid. And like every character he has one scene that will tear you up. Maybe LaLa Land or Jackie or Fences will up the ante but this looks like the best picture of the year. And this after my deep admiration of MOONLIGHT.

Monday, December 05, 2016

What's in a name?

Sometimes it's not until I change a character's name that he/she comes to life.
Another thing about names, if a character has a name that is too modern or old fashioned for the time period, it bothers me. Although names from the turn of the last century are back in vogue to have a four-year old named Heather today would not seem right. Her name would more likely be Ella, Grace, Harriet, Marion. Although class and region also play a part.

When I first submitted SHOT IN DETROIT to an agent, he balked at the name Violet. He said it was too old-fashioned. Well, he was partially right. It was not the right name for a 40 year old woman but it would have be okay for her grandmother or daughter. At the time I had a section in the novel about how as a kid people called her Violent instead of Violet. I eventually took it out but the name had stuck by then.

Certain names have too great a connection with a famous person to use unless you are commenting on it.

What are some of your favorite character names? I am going with Merricat Blackwood (WE HAVDE ALWAYS LIVED IN A CASTLE and Bo Radley (TO KILL A MOCKINBIRD).Has a chartacter's name ever ruined a story for you?

Friday, December 02, 2016


Friday's Forgotten Books, December 2, 2016


 Bonjour Tristesse - Francoise Sagan (archived review of Ed Gorman)
In the summer of 1958 I was sixteen years old and going through my first real heartbreak. My only solace was in books and movies. Seeing people was too painful. I mention this because my state of mind had a good deal to do with my reaction to a slender Dell paperback I'd been hearing about.

Bonjour Tristesse had been written by a seventeen-year-old French
schoolgirl and it had the good fortune to become a scandal in both
Europe and
the United States. The story concerned seventeen-year-old
Cecile whose wealthy and handsome father is what one might call, in
crude Yankee tongue, an ass-bandit. His latest young thing is Elsa whom
Cecile likes because she's the kind of trivial beauty her father will dump after a few months. But then Anne appears and Cecile must plot to get rid of her. Anne is serious competition to Cecile. She will take
Cecile's father from her, at least mentally and spiritually. From here the story deals with Cecile's attempt to destroy a fine woman--and one of her deceased mother's best friends--before her father falls in love
with her. The end is tragic.

The novel is ab
out pain and betrayal and loneliness and is told so simply and directly it has the effect of a stage monologue. It was condemned by most of the old farts--the French Catholic novelist Francois Mauriac reviewed it and sounded as if he was making the case for Sagan's execution--while the more charitable critics found it
earnest and compelling if not quite as important as all the fuss would have it.

There was an Iowa angle, too. Otto Preminger discovered eighteen-year-old Jean Seberg from Marshalltown, Iowa and starred her in his catastrophic production of St. Joan. The critics loved her melancholy beauty (who wouldn't?) but she certainly wasn't up to a role this difficult.
This could have ended her career but she was quickly cast in Bonjour Tristesse--which wasn't much of a movie--and did a fine job. Later she would become a French film icon when she did Breathless with Jean Paul Belmondo.

But Seberg had a troubled life very much like that of a Sagan heroine. At least one of her husbands beat her and J. Edgar Hoover had his creeps stalk her here and in France. He tried to destroy her by feeding tales to the press of how she just might be seeing a black man and showing a definite interest in left-wing politics. She died at
forty-one in circumstances that the authorities believed pointed to suicide. She had long struggled with depression.

I followed Sagan's career to the end because Bonjour had given me so much comfort that terrible summer. In France she was seen, at least early on, as a kind of J.D. Salinger, though I always thought her take
on this vale of
tears was far richer than his. And by the time she wrote Those Without Shadows a few years later she was far out of his league. And she certainly never disappointed the media. Here, from
Wikipedia, just a bit of her life story:

Personal life Sagan was married twice; to Guy Schoeller ( married
13 March 1958, an editor with Hachette, 20 years older than Sagan, divorced June 1960), and to Bob Westhof ( a young American playboy and would-be ceramist, married 10 January 1962, divorced 1963.

Their son De
nis was born in June 1963.)[3] She took a lesbian longer term lover in fashion stylist Peggy Roche; and had a male lover Bernard Frank, a married essayist obsessed with reading and eating. She added
to her self-styled "family" by beginning a long-term lesbian affair with the French Playboy magazine editor Annick Geille, after she approached Sagan for an article for her magazine.[1]

Fond of traveling in the United States, she was often seen with Truman Capote and Ava Gardner. She was once involved in a car accident in her Aston Martin sports car - (
14 April 1957) - which left her in a coma
for some time. She also loved driving her Jaguar automobile to Monte Carlo for gambling sessions.

Also, in the 1990s, Sagan was charged with and convicted of possession of cocaine.
Sagan was, at various times of her life, addicted to a number of drugs. She was a long-term user of prescription pills, amphetamines, cocaine, morphine, and alcohol.

Sergio Angelini, COP OUT, Ellery Queen
Yvette Banek, THE BIG THAW, Donald Harstad
Joe Barone, Christmas Carol Murder, Leslie Meier
Les Blatt, TAKEN AT THE FLOOD, Agatha Christie
Elgin Bleecker, Jolie Blon's Bounce James Lee Burke
Brian Busby, THE GENTLE FRAUD, Katherine Roy
Bill Crider, MAN IN THE SHADOW, Harry Whittington
Curt Evans, SO MANY DOORS, E.R. Punshon
Richard Horton, THE SIEGE OF THE SEVEN SUITORS, Meredith Nicholson
Jerry House, THE SPEAR, James Herbert
George Kelley, THE COMPLETE BATTLES OF HASTINGS, 1&2, Agatha Christie
Margot Kinberg, THE SECRET RIVER,  Kate Grenville
Rob Kitchin, PAVEL AND I, Dan Vyleta
B.V. Lawson, A COUNTRY KIND OF DEATH, Mary McMullen
Steve Lewis, FOOTPRINT OF SATAN, Norman Berrow
Todd Mason, Uncollected Wilma Shore Stories
J.F. Norris, THE MAN WHO DIDN'T EXIST, Geoffrey Homes
James Reasoner, TRIPLANETARY, Edward Smith
Richard Robinson, "comfort reading"
Reactions to Reading, VANISHING POINT, Pat Flower
Gerard Saylor,  OTHERS OF MY KIND, Gerard Saylor
Kerrie Smith, A WOMAN MUCH MISSED, Valerio Varesi
Kevin Tipple, THE HOUSE AT SEA'S END, Elly Griffiths
TracyK, DUPE, Liza Cody