Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Playlist is a Cage

Do you let anyone else listen to the tunes on your MP3 or IPOD?

It's almost worse than handing over your diary. In recent weeks, my husband (who has plenty of complaints about my choices too--he would have only played classical--really in the car?) has had my MP3 running in the car with visitors.

People feel free to comment on my musical taste in ways they wouldn't comment on my dress or other personal issues.

"Why so many tunes with female vocalists?"
"Did you really mean to record that?"
Why so many covers of Joni Mitchell songs?"
"I didn't know you listened to hip-hop."
"I can recommend some better CDs you might want to download."
"Boy, you can really judge someone's age by what they play on their MP3."
"Oh, it's two o'clock. Maybe we should catch the news."
"Never knew you were such a big fan of Joe Cocker."
"Do you know he's under arrest for a felony?"
"There's a much better cover of that by...."
"My parents like Frankie Valli, too. Did you know there was musical called JERSEY BOYS?"

See what I mean. Do you keep your musical tastes a secret? I am doing that from now on. No more backseat critics of my tunes. Would you stand by the tunes on your playlist? Is there one song in particular that would embarass you? Come on. Name your most humilating favorite.

Patrick O'Leary's Forgotten Book (Plus a Story)

Gene Wolfe reading.

This is what you get when you ask Patrick for a review of a forgotten book. Thanks, Patrick.


Gene Wolfe's The Book of The Long Sun.

A short story, by PATRICK O'LEARY

I was told to expect a man in the evening--just before closing. I was made to understand that he would be the only one who could save my bookstore--a labor of love which I had adopted when my father (the original proprietor) began to forget my name. He had died after a sharp decline in twelve months, and I, who had dreams, plans, adventures to pursue, found my true self postponed as I tried my best to balance his books, brighten his inventory and somehow make a go of it as a purveyor of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Graphic novels. My father's clientele first got older, then dwindled to the truly obsessed, until one day I became not a bookseller but an information desk.

No, I did not carry action figures. No, I did not know which Marvel Universe that man in tights was saving this week. No I did not have a section on UFOs. My media tie-ins rack was non-existent. No, I did not carry novelizations. I carried novels.

Or I did until the money ran out. Until my only visitors were sympathetic friends and my younger sister who, as a social worker, had all sorts of advice and sensible women she wished to set me up with. And no, she had no interest in my books: She hated that spaceship crap. It got to the point where I could not pay the rent on this small lower flat that housed the bookstore, and therefore could not afford the small upper flat above it.

The bank understood. They gave me time. They rearranged what could be rearranged. And finally when they pulled the plug, I got on my only sport coat and tie and went to plead my case face-to-face. I asked the teller for "A Banker" and she actually laughed in my face. What, I wondered, do you call them these days?

I sat at a desk in a clean and obviously temporary cube. I sat for one hour.

Finally an older man with red mutton chops and a gold watch on a gold chain tucked into his brown silk vest, sat down opposite me. I talked--pleaded really-- about how the bookstore was my father's dream. How I was sure that things would turn around. That people would start reading again. And then I said something which to this day I cannot explain. I said, "Who else is going to turn people on to Gene Wolfe?"

The older man looked at me under his gold rim glasses. Then he unscrewed an honest-to-god ink fountain pen and wrote on the back of his business card in the most elegant hand I had ever seen. He pushed the card across to me, smiled slightly and left.

The embossed side held his official information. The reverse side in blue ink read: "Tonight at closing: S. Your Last Hope."

I don't honestly know what I expected. It could not have been odder than that Victorian man who had handed me a gold-embossed card. But I returned to the store, and late that night the door jangled.

I didn't bother looking up. "We're closing soon," I said. "So if there's anything I can help you with..." He cleared his throat and the tallest, skinniest man I had ever seen stood before the counter.

"I am looking for one good man." His voice had the resonance of a Shakespearean actor. It came forth from a famished body, a scraggly grey beard, a bony sunken face, and a bowler hat. I could not recall the last time I'd seen one of those. His eyes were the blue shadows of icebergs.

I caught my jaw hanging a bit and I stalled, repeating, "One...Good Man?"

"Surely," he said, passing an elegant skeletal palm through the air to fling an invisible Frisbee down one of the aisles, "You must have encountered at least one."

"You mean: in books?"

"Yes, of course. I shouldn't bother looking in life--I've made a thorough search. Virtue is rare, beneficence nearly extinct, and decency half-hearted at best. My advice: Don't hold high hopes of finding a good man out there." He thumbed out a slider in the real world.

"Does it have to be a man?"

"Man, Woman, Angel, Alien--Whatever. These are just labels. I could have said: Spirit. I could have said: Soul. Are we going to quibble about phraseology? Your fucking store is at stake--Okay? Must I paint you a picture? Find me a fucking good man!"

The very air of the bookstore hummed with the echo of a tense unresolved piano chord--a rare botched Thelonious Monk. In the moment it took to regain my composure, I thought I almost saw something smoking behind his eyes.

"You’re from the bank," I ventured.

"Hardly," he snickered. "But let us say: I speak their currency."

I squinted, breathed and made a decision. "Okay. My name's Patrick. You're S____, right?"

He gave a bow.

"That's the deal? I find you a good character in a book, and you'll let me keep the store?"

He smiled tolerantly. "No, actually. That's only half the bargain. If you fail in this tiny matter, I get to keep the store and you continue working for me."

Whoa. "Really?"


"You'll be the boss, then."

He nodded, positively twinkling at the prospect.

"And--can I ask--what sort of store will it become?"

"Cutting. Edge," he said. "New paradigm. Totally digital. We'll sell no actual paper. Only plastic. We'll sell subscriptions to the world library. And we'll sell top-quality digital readers. Which will become digital viewers. Which will also become game platforms. Stream a movie. Kill a zombie. Surf the net. Send an email. Read a book--It's all the same to me. What matters isn’t the content. What matters is the screen. The delivery platform. All our overhead will be in contracts. Nothing physical. Nothing on paper. No trees involved. Everyone will want one. Then everyone will have one." He folded his white hands on the counter. "Then I will have everyone."

"What will you call this store?"


I laughed then. I slapped my counter and bent over until tears sprang out of my eyes. Finally, I said, "I thought it would be a test! I thought it would be tough!"

He didn’t like that.

"Listen, if you ever need a job, I'd be happy to take your application. You're the sort of character you only find in bookstores--eccentric, learned, pompous, a tad diabolical but ultimately harmless."

He really didn't like that at all. He lowered his blue eyes at me like a Scandinavian vampire and once again laid out his solemn challenge, "One Good Man."

The world of books stretched into the darkness behind him like a crowd of witnesses at a sacrifice.

I pointed over his right shoulder and said, "Aisle three. Science Fiction. W."

He frowned and followed my finger.

"Gene Wolfe."

"Who?" he said, turning back.

Boy, it took a lot not to laugh in his face.

"The best writer on the planet. Can’t believe you've never heard of him." Though of course I could.

He turned crisply and I chatted as he went to hunt for the books.

"It's actually 4 novels collected into two volumes. The middle of a twelve book sequence." A little gauntlet there to see how serious he was.

"A series," he snorted. "Like Buffy?"

"Yes," I said, smiling. "Like Buffy. That's funny because there's actually an alien vampire in the books. And a robot nun. And a girl implanted as a zygote in the womb of a lynx. Who can astral travel. And a submarine run by a virtual ghost. And an underwater monster. And gods who can possess people like demons." I thought. "I suppose because they aren’t really gods."

"Sounds right up my alley," he said. "Ah! Found them! "THE LITANY OF THE LONG SUN." And "EPIPHANY OF THE LONG SUN." That’s them?"


"They sound...religious."

"Oh, everything Gene Wolfe writes is religious. You just have to reread it enough times."

He gave me a look. "I never reread anything," he said, as he sat cross-legged in the aisle and thumbed open the first book. "I read very fast."

"That would be a silly way to read Wolfe," I warned. "That's like rushing sex."

"Done in a jiff!" he chirped. And man, was he riffling through those pages! I’ve heard of speed-reading but this guy was on hyper-speed.

I took the moment to contemplate the first time I had ever read "The Book of The Long Sun" as the sequence was called. How warm the memory was. How sweet.

He stopped abruptly with an annoyed theatrical sigh. "A Priest!? The hero is a priest?"


"Well..." he said. "Science Fiction."

"Patera Silk. A young blond man genetically engineered to be charismatic, intelligent and physically athletic. He spends the whole book trying to be good. He's a scholar, a pastor, a thief, an exorcist, a general, a politician, a lover."

"You said he was a priest."

"He is. But mostly, he's an innocent. And he is an absolute failure at everything he attempts."

"That makes him good in your eyes?"

"No, no, no, you idiot," I said. "It's the trying that makes him good."

"Well, pardon me," he said, switching to the second volume. "It's set on a spaceship."

"A generational starship, yes."

"Christ," he said. "Star Trek Revisited." He read on muttering occasionally. "City lights in the sky. Elves who fly. Popes who are snakes. Hah!"

"What?" I said.

"The author identifies himself in the last damn book!"

"Yes, he does."

"That's a trick."

"Yes, it is. One of many."

When there was a longish silence I knew he had finished. I heard him approaching the cash register. He held up both books as if they were evidence--one in each hand--Exhibit A and Exhibit B. He had the strangest bedazzled look on his face. It was like he had never used those muscles before.

"All right," he said.

"All right?"

"All right, you can keep the store. How much for the books?"

"On the house, " I said. I was past the gloating part.

"You'll never make any money that way."

"Sure, I will. I just sold you about $200 worth of books." Evidently not all the way past.

"How do you figure?"

"You've just fallen in love with one of the great unforgettable characters of English literature. You've heard the voice of Patera Silk, and you'll miss it after a while. You'll hunger for the sound of a guileless soul. It happens to all of us. You're going to read everything Wolfe has written, aren't you?"

He shrugged, then smiling, conceded his defeat. "Starting with 'The Book of the Long Sun.'"

"Trust me," I said. "By the twelfth read you going to really start enjoying them."

He laughed through his nose as if I had just said the most absurd thing. "Really?"

"Really. Next you'll want to read the first four books in the series."

He looked down unknowingly at the gifts he held in his hands: The best books of the best writer in the world.

"Is the priest in those, too?" he asked.

"No, but he comes back later. Those are the ones about the torturer."

copyright 2009 Patrick O'Leary

Patrick O'Leary's homepage:


Monday, September 28, 2009

My Town Monday-Detroit Author, Patrick O'Leary

Patrick O'Leary's first novel, Door Number Three, was chosen by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the best novels of the year. His second novel, The Gift, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and The Mythopoeic Award. His third novel, The Impossible Bird, made the shortlist for the Nebula Award. Other Voices, Other Doors was his first collection of fiction, essays and poetry. O’Leary’s poetry was chosen for the The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 17th Annual Edition. His short stories have appeared in Postscripts, Mars Probes, Infinity Plus, Sci Fiction, Talebones, Imagination Fully Dilated 2, The Infinite Matrix, Electric Velocipede, and Conjunctions 39: The New Wave Fabulists. His novels have been translated into German, Russian, Japanese, Polish, French and Braille. Until recently he was a creative director at an advertising agency. His work has won numerous industry awards. He makes his home in the Detroit area.

Next month, a new volume of his short fiction THE BLACK HEART is being published by PS Publishing in a limited edition. You can visit his website here.

Patrick was born in Saginaw, Michigan and moved to Detroit early on. He worked in the advertising field for many years. He wrote the poem "Nobody Knows It But Me," which was used in in a 2002 advertising campaign for the Tahoe and recited by James Garner. This has been widely used in weddings(and funerals) ever since.

On the eve of his new publication, Patrick answered a few questions.

1) Why horror/fantasy/science fiction? Was that your genre of choice as a
young reader? Were you surprised when that was how your books were
defined by the public or did you specifically write to that audience?

Well, no. I was and am pretty aware of genre. I just have no compunction to condescend to it. Weird literature is a very natural fit for my brain. In fact, there is almost an SF mindset among fans, a peculiar slant way of looking at the world which seems ordinary to us who grew up on The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Tolkien and Creepy Magazine. We recognize each other immediately when we exchange the secret code words.
"Fantastika" (as John Clute has dubbed it) is the most inclusive and expansive of fiction modes. It contains a broader palette of life, a larger vocabulary of imagination, if you will. It has been something of a mission of mine to disregard boundaries of presumption and to describe the world as I see it. It is passing
strange. I think the only way we can deal with it is by saying it's
just a dream, or a horror, or a fantasy.

2) Who did you read as a young man? Who do you read now? Who should we be reading?

I was introduced to literature by the Little House Books of Laura Ingalls Wilder (co-written, we've learned since then with her daughter Rose Wilder). I was a lonely boy who had just moved from an idyllic country home to the Big City of Detroit. This traumatic voyage into a new and awful world turned me into a reader, and I sought refuge the hearth tales of a warm pioneer family who seemed to move into new territories of danger and dismay ever year, every book (Blizzards/ blindness/Indians/crop failures). One mustn't underestimate initial gateways into literature.

From there I moved naturally onto Salinger, Hemmingway, Kael, Greene,
Waugh, Spark, Doctorow and poets like Berryman, E.E.Cummings, etc.
I've just discovered Kage Baker--a superb SF/fantasy writer. I love the poetry of Mary
Oliver. The songs of Van Morrison. And the literature of Gene Wolfe. I think we ought to be reading Kevin Brockenmeirer, Ono no Komachi and Octavia Butler. A list of my favorite books is on the webpage. http://web.mac.com/paddybon/

3) How do you feel about the little magazines in the fantastic- fiction field that you have contributed to? Is the future of most genre writing in such publications. Where is the best writing taking place right now?

Surprise. I am most grateful to the magazines who've accepted my work. I haven't the faintest idea where the genre is going. Could anyone have predicted Obama 5 years ago? Why should literature be any different?

4) Tell us about your new book of stories?

The Black Heart is a collection of strange new stories and stories excerpted from my three novels. Jim Morrow wrote a wonderful introduction which in my weaker moments makes me feel truly bad ass. Some are SF. Some are fantasy. Trust me: on any given page you will
have no idea what happens next. Let me quote myself from the cover flap. "The Black Heart is a collection of Patrick O'Leary's newest stories. Here you will find aliens and apocalypses, God and Satan, witches and geishas, madonnas and mutes, birds and bears, zoos and prisons, weeping robots and knights who work in hardware, pardons and orgasms, men without legs and aliens without hearts. In short, pretty much your standard O'Leary stash..."

5) Has Detroit/Michigan informed your writing? It seems to me that fantasy writers are probably less influenced by where they live than other writers? Is this a misconception?

Our black cat with green eyes keeps coming to the window and yowling through the screen, I'll be damned if I'm going to let him in. There is roughly 15% unemployment in Michigan. I am unemployed.

6) What’s next for Patrick O’Leary?

A collection of translations of the poetry of Ono no Komachi with woodcuts by my wife, Sandra Rice. A new collection of poems is out and about. I remain paddling on a fantasy novel I began in 1998.

7) What, as teachers say, are you trying to do?

I am not trying to do anything. I am doing it, but way too slowly. Let me start again.

Let's say you've never been kissed.You are standing in the corner of a gymnasium watching other junior high kids slo-dance in the semi-dark, A black man in a white suit with a white fender electric comes to the stage and mimes his as yet unhead of hit: "Sunny." Some manager thought playing school sock hops was the way to drum up interest in his career. In the corner are the chaperons: the coach who whipped you with his lanyard. The black man who taught you social science. Over there is the football star who peed on you in the showers as a joke. And this is a middle class, ordinary high school, one year after the Beatles broke. See that strobe light. That girl over there doing the pony with the ironed-flat bangs and the green miniskirt. She doesn't know you love her. She will never know you love her. The DJ plays The Rolling Stones singing, "This could be the last time. This could be the last time, MAAAAY be
the last time I don't know. Oh No."

That's what I'm trying to do.

Brian Lindenmuth, editor of Bookspot Central and an O'Leary fan had this to say about Patrick O'Leary.

Trying to put words to Patrick O'Leary's novels is practically a futile exercise because they are that rare thing in fiction, true originals, containing savage acts of imagination and bolded,
underlined and emphasized transmissions from the heart.

His work is literally unlike any others out there. At it's best his work has beauty, elegance, grace and maybe a touch of the divine. He's one of those writers that you wish was more prolific but you're glad he's not because it might dilute what he's doing.

What further proof do you need then these two examples


1) The man who hypnotized his whole fourth grade class into believing
they were invisible. Leading them in a chorus countdown in the Saginaw
Museum’s science wing.“Five! Four! Three! Two! One!”

And suddenly the beautiful feeling of being safe. Truly safe. Nobody
watching. Nobody seeing. His science teacher Mrs. Brown and the field
trip chaperons, lined up by the frosted glass door. Their eyes closed,
their smiles benevolent. All his classmates quiet and crowded
together, smiling guilty smiles.

Mrs. Brown slowly licking her lips, remembering a private pleasure.

One boy touching himself through his corduroys.

One girl reaching out and holding the hand of the boy in front of her.

Mike looking at Peggy Stack’s red pigtails. Finally free to stare
without shyness at his secret crush: her freckled face and blue eyes.
Mike smelling Peggy’s scent: peaches. Dr. Klinder speaking, and though
he stood across the room, it felt like he was whispering in his ear.
“You look like you want to kiss her, Mike. Go ahead.”

Mike hesitating.

“Go on. She can’t see you.”

And Mike leaning down and tilting his head toward the little girl in pigtails.

Contact: the electric warm smoothness of her lips.

His open eyes taking in the white down on her freckled cheek.

The tip of her tongue gently parting his teeth.

His first kiss.

Klinder’s red parrot giving a wolf whistle that echoed off the high
ceiling of the science wing.

And the huge tear trickling down her face, interrupting the kiss.

Her sad eyes and her one word. “Daddy?”


“You Ok”

I looked at him. “I was remembering something I hadn’t thought of in years.”

“Yeah. Time-blipping does that to ya. Scrapes the barnacles off yer hull”

“It’s like it happened yesterday.”

“I know. A cruddy memory?”

I nodded. “I was eighteen. Sitting in the den watching a fire. My dad
came home early, or I was up late. Anyway, he didn’t expect to see me.
And he did the strangest thing. He sat down next to me on the couch.
Started telling me these” – I swallowed – “things. Like how proud he
was of me. How he bragged about me all the time at the dealership. He
said he called me his ‘Smart Boy’. He said he was glad at least one of
his boys was going to finish college.”

Saul cocked an eyebrow at me. “What’s so cruddy about that?”

“You don’t understand. I could smell the gin on his breath.”

The little man shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first time a guy hadta get
juiced to, you know…”

“No”, I said. “That’s not it. He was nervous. Guilty. He was taking me
into his confidence. So I wouldn’t be tempted to tell my mother.” I
saw I wasn’t making sense. “He’d been sober for five years. She’d
threatened to leave him if he took another drink. He was buying me


“He told me everything a son wants to hear from his father and he didn’t mean a word.”

Check out Patrick's website for a generous sample his Patrick O'Leary's work. He is truly a Detroit original.

And find more MY TOWN MONDAY posts here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Quick Question

About half of the commenters on here, come through to my email identified as Nan Higginson, a blogger on Women of Mystery. Does anyone know why this happened? It's been going on for months. I feel like Nan and I have this close but mysterious relationship. Especially since we don't know each other at all. Any thoughts?


The Detroit Lions have not won a NFL Championship since 1957 but that statistic doesn't really begin to tell the story. They have, for instance, lost their last nineteen games, stretching back to 2007. Between 2001 and 2003 there were the only team not to win a single game on the road.

Things looked bright for a few weeks in 2007 when they started the season at 6-2. They won only one additional game, ending the season at 7-9. There are so many more sad stories to tell. A lovely new facility where they continue to stink the place up.

Why do fans still go the games? This is a mystery to me. If they stopped going, the Detroit Lions ownership might be forced to put a good team on the field. I propose that if an owner cannot produce a winning team in 52 years, he should lose the franchise. What do you think? Doesn't Detroit have enough problems without the Lions to drag them down 16 times a year?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sharon Isbin Plays Rodrigo

A four-star salute to Sharon Isbin, classical guitarist, who we heard play the music of Rodrigo at the DSO last night. We had 12 row center seats as the first part of our $100 buck package for six events. Symphony, play, opera, chamber music, movie, dance. It's called the Detroit Passport to the Arts and what a deal! Detroiters-come on out.

Why Are Vice Presidential Candidates So Lame

Why are veep nominees so lame?

(From the Andrew Gelman at The Monkey Cage)

A few days ago Gelman blogged on the laughability of many vice-presidential nominees (John Edwards, Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Joe Biden, Aaron Burr, . . .) along with some hypotheses about what was going on. Jonathan Bernstein followed up with some thoughts of his own:

List A: Eagleton, Shriver, Dole, Ferraro, Quayle, Lieberman, Palin

List B: Mondale, (George H.W.) Bush, Bentsen, Gore, Kemp, Edwards, Biden

List B are Vice Presidential nominees who had previously run for president, at least a little; List A are those nominees who had not run for president before their selection for the #2 spot . . . just on quick inspection there sure seems to be an enormous gap between the two lists, no? I think everyone on List B was regarded as a decent pick; there certainly are no wash-outs. List A, on the other hand, is a disaster area . . . If anyone wants to do an empirical study, I’d suggest checking for the word “dump” with the various nominees. I think you would come up positive for most of List A, and negative for everyone on List B.

Bernstein concludes:

If a presidential nominee asked me for advise about Vice, I’d tell him or her to make a short list limited to people who survived a presidential campaign with their reputations intact. Anything else is asking for trouble.

Me: The thing is VPs are so often picked for the purpose of balancing a ticket. Another geographical area, old and young, right and left. Does this often leave us with a weak pool to draw from? Thoughts?

Friday, September 25, 2009

THE SUMMING UP, Friday, September 25, 2009

Reading the Bible.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Jennie Bentley, Suspicious Circumstance, Quentin Patrick
Paul Bishop, The Finger in the Sky Affair, Peter Leslie
Michael Carlson, Face of Evil, John McPartland
Elizabeth Spann Craig, Some Must Watch, Ethel Lina White
Bill Crider, AUGUSTUS MANDRELL SERIES, Frank McAuliffe
Martin Edwards, The Second Curtain, Roy Fuller
Ed Gorman, The Man With the Iron-On Badge, Lee Goldberg
Randy Johnson, The Moonshine War, Elmore Leonard
George Kelley, The Glass Cell, Patricia Highsmith
Todd Mason, Benchmarks: Galaxy Bookshelf, Algis Budrys
Stuart Neville, Jack's Return Home, Ted Lewis
Richard Prosch, Black Storm, Thomas Hinkle
James Reasoner, The Mediterranean Caper, Clive Cussler
Rick Robinson, Free Reign, Rosemary Aubert
Kerrie Smith (Christmas Triptych) Maigret's Christmas, George Simenon, Tied Up in Tinsel, Ngaoi Marsh, Hercule Poirot's Christmas, Agatha Christie
R.T. Tilt A Whirl, Chris Grabenstein
Art Taylor, Room to Swing, Ed Lacy
James Winter, Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 25, 2009

Reading Plato.

Stuart Neville's debut novel The Ghosts of Belfast will be published in
the USA by Soho Crime in October 2009. He will embark on a six city
American tour beginning mid October, so check www.GhostsOfBelfast.com for an
appearance near you.

Jack's Return Home by Ted Lewis:

Many a fan of cinematic crime will be familiar with Get Carter, the grim and
gritty Michael Caine vehicle first released in 1971. Jack Carter, the
brutal gangland thug, is perhaps Caine's most iconic role, and the movie is
widely regarded as one of the greatest ever to emerge from Britain. Fewer
will be acquainted with the novel that inspired the film, Jack's Return Home
by Ted Lewis, first published the year before.

While the adaptation by director Mike Hodges takes some liberties with the source, like relocating the action to Newcastle rather than the Doncaster area, it remains true in spirit to Lewis's classic tale of a mob enforcer who travels from London to his home town in the northeast of England to attend his brother's funeral. When he begins to suspect that his brother's
death was not an accident, things get ugly. Very ugly.

I'd been a fan of the movie for years, and when I finally found a copy of the original novel I couldn't wait to immerse myself in this glorious murk. A few pages in, however, and I was a little taken aback. While I was not yet a writer myself, I had dabbled, and had some sense of prose style. Ted Lewis's way with words was, shall we say, distinctive. The language was
angular, lumpen, sometimes awkward in its phrasing, often ungainly as sentences ran on and on, losing shape as they went. But there was something compulsive about the first person narrative; like a car crash, you couldn't look away.

When the violence came, this seemingly clumsy prose took on the shape of the cruelty it described. The act of inflicting injury on another human being became as ugly in print as it is in real life. And that's when it clicked. Ted Lewis's words were planted so firmly in the mind of the ruthless killer through whose eyes we saw this world that everything was filtered through
his perception. The descriptions of the urban landscape, and the people inhabiting it, were hard and unyielding because that was how the protagonist saw it. Soon the jagged sentences and bludgeoning violence took on a kind of brutal poetry as the author dragged me down with him into Carter's own private hell. It's a reading experience I'll never forget, and one that has
profoundly influenced my own writing.

It's a great shame that Ted Lewis's work is now largely forgotten. He was a brilliant crime writer and stylist comparable to the best of American authors, like James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard and James Lee Burke. He created the British school of noir fiction with a string of novels in the 1970s that still stand up today, if you can find them. Billy Rags is a particularly good read, and the two Carter prequels, Jack Carter's Law, and Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon, are interesting curiosities for fans of the original, even if they do rather smack of cashing in. If not for his death at the age of 42, Ted Lewis may have become the greatest British crime writer of
his generation. Now we'll never know.

Jennie Bentley is the author of the bestselling Do-It-Yourself Home Renovation mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. She has been compared to Elizabeth Peters, Janet Evanovich, and—believe it or not—Agatha Christie, but never to Quentin Patrick, which seems rather a shame.


I grew up in Norway, which, as everyone knows, is part of Scandinavia. My mother was a big reader, and
there were always books around the house. She was my introduction to classics like “Rebecca,” “Gone with the Wind,” and “Sweet Thursday,” all of which (and many more) she’d gotten from a book club she was a member of. I read them in Norwegian, of course. I can still see the leather bindings side by side on the shelf: black and taupe and green, with shiny metallic letters and stripes across the spine on the top and the bottom.

My favorite book club book was called “Piken og Døden,” which translates to “Death and the Maiden.” Backwards. It was originally written in 1939, by an American writer called Quentin Patrick, one of Scandinavia’s most beloved classic crime authors.

Of course I didn’t know it at the time, but Quentin Patrick is one of several pseudonyms for Richard Wilson Webb, who started writing crime novels in 1931 with Martha Mott Kelly. When Miss Kelly got married, Webb teamed up with Mary Louise Atwell for a few years, until he found his permanent writing partner in Hugh Wheeler. Their collaboration started in 1936, and for thirty years, they wrote as Quentin Patrick, Patrick Quentin, and Jonathan Stagge. At one time a relatively well-known crime ‘writer,’ Q Patrick has fallen into obscurity on this side of the Atlantic, and it’s a real shame, because many of the books are wonderful.

Much as I enjoy “Death and the Maiden,” it’s not my favorite Quentin Patrick book. That honor goes to “Suspicious Circumstances,” first published in 1957. I’m not sure why, exactly, because there’s nothing at all wrong with “Death and the Maiden.” Could be that “Suspicious Circumstances” is just damned funny, and I enjoy comedy. Could be because at that age I wanted to be a movie actress, and that’s the background for the story. Or maybe it’s just that the protag
onist and narrator isn’t much older than I was when I first read it.

I was in Paris when Norma Delaney died. I had decided to write a novel, and when I told mother, she said, “A novel, my boy? Nineteen years old. Well, why not? Young eyes see everything so clearly. Go to Paris, Nickie. That’s where the best books are written.”

Two days later, Nickie is settled in Paris, in an apartment overlooking the Luxembourg Gardens borrowed from one of his mother’s countless friends, and the next week he’s introduced to Monique at the Café Flore. And somehow the book goes on the back-burner while Nickie enjoys being nineteen and in love. But when he sees a headline saying that over-the-hill screen goddess Norma Delaney has plunged to her death in her Beverly Hills palace, Nickie fears the worst. Norma’s husband, film producer Ronnie Light, has just cast his wife in the role of the century, a blockbuster movie about French courtesan Ninon de Lenclos, an opportunity that every aging actress in Hollywood would happily kill for. Now that Norma is dead, sur
ely Ronnie is looking for another actress to play Ninon. And who better than...?

“I can see it now,” I said. “Mother in the biggest wig since Norma Shearer played Marie Antoinette. Did Ninon de Lenclos yodel? Mother can yodel, too.”

Sarcasm notwithstanding, Nickie gets on the first plane back to Beverly Hills, and gets tangled up in a mystery ranging from California to Las Vegas and back to France, involving Anny and Ronnie, over-the-hill screen goddess Sylvia La Mann, who’s also angling for the role of Ninon; mobster Steve Adriano, who ‘owns’ Las Vegas; the secretary’s secretary, Delight Schmidt, who just happens to be a California redhead, one of Nickie’s self-professed weaknesses; and of course Frenchman Roger Renard, who was there “when Anny did it...”

It’s a wild ride of show business and dead bodies, with a couple of neat twists toward the end that I didn’t see coming, at least not at fourteen or fifteen. By now, I’ve read this book so many times that I can’t tell you whether that might have been different had I read it later in life. I think probably not.

Quentin Patrick’s bo
oks are mostly out of print these days, but they’re in libraries up and down the country—interlibrary loan is a wonderful resource if your local library doesn’t have a book you want—and you can also find copies on used book sites like Abe’s Books and possibly even on the shelves of your local used bookstore. If you happen to come across one, snatch it up. If you don’t like it, I’ll be happy to take it off your hands!

Elizabeth Spann Craig is the author of the recent Midnight Ink release, Pretty is as Pretty Dies and the upcoming Memphis Barbeque series for Berkley Prime Crime (May 2010.)

She’s the mother of two and currently lives in Matthews, North Carolina. Between juggling room mom duties, refereeing play dates, and being dragged along as chaperone/hostage on field trips, she dreams of dark and stormy nights beside stacks of intriguing mysteries with excellent opening lines.

http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com and http://elizabethspanncraig.com

Some Must Watch (also known as The Spiral Staircase) by Ethel Lina White, 1933

A dark and stormy night. A ruthless killer who preys on young girls. A lonely country estate far from its nearest neighbor. It sounds, maybe, more like a plot for a scary movie. This could explain why Some Must Watch or The Spiral Staircase was made into a movie in 1946 starring Ethel Barrymore (and remade in 1975 starring Jacqueline Bisset and Christopher Plummer. It was remade once more in 2000 as a television movie.) Alfred Hitchcock was also a fan of White’s work and adapted her 1938 book, The Wheel Spins, into his film, The Lady Vanishes.

White writes with great humor as she breathes life into her unusual collection of characters, which include a dried-up professor with an old maid sister, the professor’s son--insanely jealous of an affair he suspects his lascivious wife is having with the professor’s live-in pupil, two resident servants, and the professor’s wicked step-mother—Lady Warren-- who is bedridden but who may be more mobile than they all believe. White’s introduction of the step-mother: “She was the terror of the household; only yesterday, she had flung a basin of gruel at her nurse's head.” There’s also a very masculine nurse employed to keep Lady Warren in line.

The protagonist is Helen Capel who is working as a “lady help” in the household. Helen is spunky and smart, but young and possible naïve. A sense of foreboding is quickly established as various characters warn Helen to watch her back as a vicious killer roams the countryside. The weather and the remote setting combine to lend a lonely, frightening feel to the book.

The house itself is full of passages….some lit, some not. There are several staircases, a cellar, and lots of places for someone to hide. White’s descriptions are quick and punchy, the book fast-paced, and there’s both humor and fright, which she handles equally well. There are nine people in the house—at first. They’re locked inside. Not all of them may be what they seem. White builds the tension with breezy skill as she exposes her characters to a terrifying night trapped indoors with a murderer.

Ed Gorman is the author of THE MIDNIGHT ROOM, SLEEPING DOGS and the editor of forthcoming anthology BETWEEN THE DARK AND THE DAYLIGHT. Find him here

The Man With The Iron-On Badge Lee Goldberg

The Man With The Iron-On Badge isn't Forgotten, it's just been neglected because so far the only edition has been a small hardcover printing with a large print version coming soon after. This is a book that deserves a trade paperback. With all the small presses so active I'm surprised that it isn't available in a new edition.

Iron-On is a book that will keep you laughing and smiling all the way through. If you have any affection for the private eye novel, this book should be required reading because in addition to gently spoofing the form it is a story so rich in character and story twists it's truly masterful.

Say you were a lonely and somewhat overweight security guard who works the night shift at an exclusive gated community. Say that your idea of dining out was Denny's. Say that the only girl who'll have sex with you--and then only occasionally--always makes it clear that she's looking for somebody a whole lot better than you. Say that your fantasy life springs from all the private novels and TV shows you spend time with in your apartment. And say that suddenly Cyril Parkus who lives in the gated community gives you a chance to perform one of the classic jobs of a real private eye--following his beautiful wife.

This is the life of Harvey Mapes, one of my all-time favorite characters in private eye fiction. Of course Harvey takes the job and the money. Of course Harvey enjoys following a woman as beautiful and worldly as Lauren. Of course Harvey has thoughts of finally getting his life in order.

But fate--or somebody--has different ideas for Harvey.

The novel is seeded with references to private eye shows and novels. In addition it gives us a realistic look at the trapped lives of millions of working Americans who live just above the poverty line. And it also goes the standard Los Angeles crime novel one better by taking us places and showing us people we don't usually see in the LA novel.

But more than the comedy, the beautifully designed plot and the snapshots of La La Land--more than any other element in the book, it's Harvey's voice you'll remember. There's a workaday universality to it that gives the novel its wit and insight and truth.

Before a publisher comes to his senses and reprints Lee Goldberg's fine novel, you can find inexpensive copies on on line.

Some other forgotten books.

Bill Crider

James Reasoner

Kerrie Smith

Martin Edwards
George Kelley
Randy Johnson
Paul Bishop
Art Taylor
James Winter
Rick Robinson
Richard Prosch
Michael Carlson
Todd Mason

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Preston Sturgis reading.

I had to do a little work to get myself a copy of Dan J. Marlowe's THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH. I considered writing about it for Friday's but it is really not forgotten by most people reading this. But I had to talk about it because it was such a perfect gem. Wallace Stroby has a great review of it on his blog so I don't want to repeat what he has said better. Instead I just want to list what made it such a perfect book to me.

1) the complexity of the protagonist

2) the writing-lucid, tense, succinct

3) the way Marlow integrates a necessary back story into the plot. Now a lot of writers today would say, we don't need to know all of this about him. I disagree. Without this info, he's just a psycho. Now he's a psycho, yes, but with grounding.

4) the length of the book. Truly you couldn't take much more of this degree of excitement.

5) the atmosphere, which is just exactly right for the plot, character, etc.

6) the integration of the violent aspects with the prosaic ones

7) the motivation for what happens. Because of the back story, we get it.

8) the ending.

I could go on and on. What did you like about this book if you've read it? If not, what book would you nominate for a perfect little gem?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The battle over the next book in a reading group.

I am worried that many movies enjoyed in Toronto last week will never hit the big screens. Distribution deals for movies is way off. The audience for adult movies is fading.
Bill Crider's puzzlement over why a terrific movie like "Adventureland" didn't do better sparked this. What recent movie's dismal figures surprised you? I'll choose THE MERRY GENTLEMAN with Michael Keaton this summer. It came and went over night. This was a film that should have drawn a larger if not large crowd. What else?

Monday, September 21, 2009


The Noir Thriller

This book is written by British academic, Lee Horsley, and published by Palgrave. Although it's an academic book, the selection I read is easy to understand and interesting for anyone who reads noir. She just added a chapter on 21st century noir, which includes lots of the people we are reading today.

This info via Al Guthrie.



Park Shelton

Leopold's books

The Detroit environs is now the site of many disappearing shops. Even in Royal Oak, the hippest suburb, I counted dozens of empty store fronts yesterday.

But in the midst of all this--and in Detroit itself-- two new businesses have opened, poised between Wayne State University and the College for Creative Studies. They are also across from the Art Institute. I can't tell you how much I admire these young people taking a chance on Detroit.

Leopold's Books, owned and manned by University of Chicago MA graduate, Greg Lenhoff, has the coolest assortment of books you will ever find in a small space. Their common strand is they are dark, arty, different. Lots of graphic comics, art magazines, journals, new editions of classics by Chandler et al, Michigan authors. Just the sort of place to find something for the cool guy or woman in your life. The space itself is attractive with high ceilings, dark walls, wood floors, huge window onto Woodward Avenue. Leopoldsbooks@gmail.com for more information. Or call 313-875-4677. He's open all the time. Go in and say hello.

Plopped right next door to Leopald's is GOOD GIRLS GO TO PARIS CREPES, a second location for the business in midtown Detroit. A huge selection of delicious crepes, reasonably priced and made from scratch. Also a spanking new facility. Long hours, too.

You could do worse than spend some time in these spots after a trip to the Art Museum, Historical Museum across the street, the Museum of African-American History or the Detroit Science Center.

Both of these shops are located on the street level of THE PARK SHELTON, formerly apartments and now a new condo in the area.

Both places are at 15 E. Kirby, on the Woodward side.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stealing Stories

Joan Fontaine reading.

You're at a social gathering. A woman across the room tells the story of her uncle who raised pigs in a small way. Just a few at a time. When he took the pig to the slaughterhouse," she advised us, "he drove them there in the backseat of his Mercedes. Said he wanted them to go out in style." After our skeptical pause, she added, "they were used cars, of course."

Now do you tell her you have to use this incident in a story. (I did this time). Do you feel guilty about it? I've used more than one of these sorts of tales in larger pieces.

Just the day before I heard an even better one. A husband picked up turtles from the roadside in Oxford, Mississippi and brought them home to his wife. Dozens, (well, he claimed hundreds), of them. Every day at noon, she came outside and handfed them peaches. Called them from out of their hiding places for a nice lunch.

Would you let these stories go by? Do you ever feel like you're stealing pieces of other people's lives? Is there a line you would draw?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Summing Up. Friday, September 18, 2009

The Summing Up, Friday, September 18, 2009

Reading Lolita

Bernadette (B2) Ligny's Lake, S.H. Courtier
Paul Bishop, Two Heads Are Better, Elliot Lewis
Jeff Cohen, Someone is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe, Nan & Ivan Lyons
Bill Crider, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Ken Kesey]
Martin Edwards, In Stony Places, Kay Mitchell
Randy Johnson, Armageddon 2419 AD, Philip Francis Nowan
George Kelley, Plotting and Writing Suspense, Patricia Highsmith
Rob Kitchin, Rommel? Gunner Who? Spike Milligan
B.V. Lawson, Bleeding of the Innocents, Jo Bannister
Steve Lewis, The Silence of the Rain Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
Margaret, The Brading Collection, Patricia Wentworth
Todd Mason, Total Television, Alex McNeil and 101 Best Jazz Albums, Len Lyons
Eric Peterson, The Trouser Press Record Guide, Ira A Robbbins, Editor
James Reasoner, Scarlet Riders, Don Hutchinson
Rick Robinson, Case for Three Detectives, Leo Bruce
Clea Simon, Thank You for Not Reading, Dubravka Ugresic
Kerrie Smith, The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
RT, Long Time Gone, J.A. Jance
Richard Wheeler, Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, A. Scott Berg

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 18, 2009

William Gay reading.

I'll be away all day today and will fix up any mistakes and add a summing up late tomorrow. Thanks to all of these wonderful contributors.

Rob Kitchin works at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and is
the author of the police procedural, The Rule Book.
Rommel’ ‘Gunner Who?’ is the second book in a seven book series charting the experiences of Spike Milligan during and immediately after
the Second World War.  Born in 1919 in India to an Irish father serving
in the British Indian Army and English mother, and passing away in 2002,
Milligan is widely regarded as one of Britain’s most famous and
influential comedians in the second half of the twentieth century, known
for his surrealist and off-beat sketches and wise-cracks, influencing
acts such as Monty Python, Kenny Everett and Eddie Izzard. Prior to the
war he performed as an amateur jazz trumpeter in London, a role he
continued whilst serving in North Africa and Italy, and after being
wounded and hospitalised in Italy he ended the war as a full time
entertainer. After being demobbed, he shot to fame as one of the
co-creators and principal writer of The Goon Show, one of the most
popular radio programmes of the 1950s. By the late 1950s he was writing
for television and regularly appearing on the small screen. He was also
a noted writer, poet and playwright.

‘Stop it at once!’ said Dawson through his own laughter. We stopped.
‘Now stop it, or I’ll kill the bloody lot of you.’ A white star shell
lit the night.

‘What’s that?’ said Ernie Hart.

‘That, Ernie, means a child has been born in Bethlehem,’ I said.

‘Well, he’s two months late and the wrong bloody map reference.’
Another two star shells.

‘She’s had triplets,’ said Ernie. After an hour we reached the O.P. hill.

‘This way,’ said Bombardier Fuller. Birch and I followed with reel.

‘Stop that fokin’ noise,’ hissed an angry Irish voice, ‘you’ll get us
all fokin’ mortared.’

We took the spindle from the drum and unwound by hand. More flares,
suddenly a rapid burst of automatic fire. It was a Spandau, a return
burst, the unmistakable chug, chug, chug of a Bren gun. A flare
silhouetted us beautifully for the whole Afrika Korps to see. ‘Freeze,’
hissed Fuller. I had one leg raised when he said it. Somewhere a
German O.P. officer was saying, ‘Himmel! zey are using one-legged
soldiers.’ The flares fade. Fuller says, ‘I’m lost.’

‘I thought you’d never say it,’ I said.

We groped our way back to the party who were inside the Bren practising
fear and smoking.

I read the first six of the Milligan war diaries when I was a teenager
in the 1980s and I still have four of them, this one being the earliest
I have. ‘Rommel’ ‘Gunner Who?’ focuses on Gunner Milligan’s time in
Algeria, especially on the battle for Tunis, and draws extensively from
his war time diary including sketches and photographs. It also includes
joke pictures and little comedy scripts. It’s probably about 25 years
since I first read the book so it was interesting to go back and take
another look. In many ways it still holds up. The narrative is
engaging and witty, blending in pathos in just right measure.
Milligan’s story is interesting, traversing across North Africa swapping
artillery bombardments, being mortared and shot at, witnessing death and
destruction, letting off steam in bars, and the camaraderie of young men
in engaged in a dangerous endeavour. In other ways, it seems quite
dated, especially in relation to the politically incorrect language.
Several times, racist jokes are made at the expensive of the locals and
places are described in racist terms, for example, he calls a couple of
settlements ‘a wog village’. In this sense it is a product of its time,
but Milligan was well aware of such racist sentiments at the time of its
writing given criticisms of some of his other works which in trying to
address racial stereotyping reproduced what it sought to counter (I’m
thinking here of the television programme Curry and Chips). As
autobiographies go, it’s a largely enjoyable and informative read. As I
remember it, the next two books in the series were the best ones –
Monty, His Part in My Victory and Mussolini, His Part in My Downfall.

Margaret from BooksPlease
I'm a lifelong bookaholic and I started BooksPlease in April 2007. I t
rained and worked for a while as a librarian in a local history library and then as a cataloguer. More recently I worked in local government.My blog is mainly about the books I’ve been reading and those I’m considering reading. Now and then I also write about places I’ve visited and personal anecdotes or thoughts. I like to read a variety of book genres and I enjoy fiction of most types (I don’t like horror) and non-fiction, mainly history, philosophy, religion, biography, diaries and letters.

I'm not sure if Patricia Wentworth's Miss Maud Silver books can really be considered as "forgotten books", especially as I found The Brading Collection on the library shelves. At any rate I wasn't familiar with her books so I thought maybe it would fit the bill.I knew nothing about Patricia Wentworth, except the little that was stated in the book itself. She was born in India in 1878 and wrote dozens of best-selling mysteries being recognised as one of the "mistresses of classic crime." She died in 1961 and was as popular in the 1940s as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. Miss Silver "was her finest creation".In The Brading Collection a worried Lewis Brading asks Miss Silver for help. He is obsessed by a feeling that something is going on behind his back, that whilst he is asleep someone is entering the annex to Warne House where he keeps his collection of jewellery, most of which has some connection with crime. Miss Silver, who has been compared by some to Miss Marple, is a former governess, now a private investigator, takes a dislike to him and refuses to take on his case. However when, a fortnight later, he is shot she helps the police to discover his murderer.As you would expect there are several suspects and the sequence of events leading up to the murder are carefully scrutinised by Miss Silver, described as a ... dowdy little governess out of a family out of a family photograph ... her hair very neat, her oldfashioned hat a little crooked, her hands in their black thread gloves folded primly upon a shabby bag with a tarnished clasp.(page 148)She looks as though she had just stepped out of a family photograph album of about forty years earlier. She is never seen without her flowered knitting bag and knits throughout the book, even when interviewing people; she quotes from Tennyson and has a razor-sharp mind. Behind her appearance, she has... an intelligence which commanded respect ... an integrity, a kindness, a sort of benign authority.(page 148)It all hinges on the timing of events, when people visited Lewis in the annex, whether the door was locked and who had a key. The suspects include Lewis’s secretary, James Moberley, reluctantly working for him under threat of exposure as a criminal, and his cousin and heir Charles Forrest, suspected by Stacy his ex-wife of stealing the Brading family necklace to fund the conversion of his family home into flats. Then there are Myra Constantine, who looks like a toad, ugly and venomous with flashing black eyes and her daughters, Milly and Hester, insignificant and bullied by her mother. Why does Hester enter the annex late at night? Is Lilias Gray, Charles’s cousin a reliable witness? It all builds up to a climax with a dramatic ending, involving a car chase, reminding me of cops and robbers films, as the culprit drives off in a police car, chased by the furious Inspector Crisp.
All in all this is a satisfying book, with believable characters and plenty of surprises, although I had worked out who did before the dénouement. I’m glad I found Patricia Wentworth and as there is a long list of her books there are plenty more to read.

Richard S. Wheeler is the author of sixty-nine contracted or published novels that largely deal with the American West. These include historical novels, biographical novels, and traditional western fiction. In recent years he's been writing mysteries, including some set in the upper Midwest, under the pseudonym Axel Brand. I've also written numerous short stories. You can find Richard here.

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, by A. Scott Berg

I've finished rereading Scott Berg's great biography of Maxwell Perkins, which won the National Book Award in 1978. It is a massive book and took a week to get through. I've often wondered why it is my favorite book, and why I return to it with renewed thirst and joy, every little while.

For a long time, I thought it was because I had been a book editor and found common ground with Perkins. Or perhaps it was because my family is rooted in New England, though I grew up in the Midwest. There was something in Max Perkins' shy, awkward, introspective nature that rang bells in me.

The truth of it is that I have no idea why that book stands above all others in that place of the heart where I build altars. It is largely a description of the way Perkins, a Scribners editor, nurtured several wayward authors and the result was the most sublime period in American literary history. The list of those he encouraged and published is too long for this posting, but they include Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ring Lardner, Edmund Wilson, Erskine Caldwell, Sherwood Anderson, John P. Marquand, S. S. Van Dine, Taylor Caldwell, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Alan Paton, and James Jones. No other editor has even come close to discovering and publishing a list like that.

Scott Berg writes tenderly. He had his hands full, because of the acrimony, the disappointments, the bitterness, the craziness, the hurt, that he was chronicling. Somehow Perkins managed to nurture each of his authors, supplied the specific criticisms that lifted their books to new heights, all the while trying to remain anonymous because he felt that editors should not take credit or be known to the public. He often said that a book belongs to the author, and it is the editor's task simply to bring out the best in the author and the book.

This great work by Berg shaped me. It deeply affected how I think about literature. It changed what I aspire to in my writing. I am not the same person I was before this book entered the place of honor on my shelf. I lost my father, whom I loved and admired, when I was young. All those authors he nurtured lost a father when Max Perkins died.

Rick Robinson: Killer in the Rain

Raymond Chandler stories originally published 1934-1941collection © 1964Ballantine Books 1977 paperback mystery short story collection Contains 8 stories: “Killer in the Rain”, “The Man Who Liked Dogs”, “The Curtain”, “Try the Girl”, Mandarin’s Jade”, “Bay City Blues”, “The Lady in the Lake," “No Crime in the Mountains”.

These stories by Chandler are both less and more than they seem. Every one of them was cannibalized by him and became part of a novel. Sometimes it was a character or two who made the transition, more often it was whole pieces of plot, in some cases the entire story became a novel, with only more plot and a few name changes.
In his informative introduction, Philip Durham traces the publication and cannibalization of these eight stories, part or all of which became The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely and The Lady in the Lake.
None of the stories in this collection appears in Chandler’s 1950 “official” short story collection The Simple Art of Murder. Once Chandler cannibalized a story he believed it should be buried, so the stories were left to fade away with the pulp magazines in which they were originally published, thus none of these stories was published by Chandler during his lifetime, though three were published in collections. “No Crime in the Mountains” appeared in Great American Detective Stories edited by Anthony Boucher (1945), “The Man Who Liked Dogs” appeared in Joseph Shaw’s The Hard Boiled Omnibus. (1946) while “Bay City Blues” appeared in Verdict (1953). Chandler maintained these stories were published by mistake and without his permission.
I bought this collection when I first discovered Chandler, and I enjoyed it greatly. It was my introduction to his writing, and I read it, Simple Art and Pickup On Noon Street before I ever got to one of his novels. When I did start on the novels – with The Big Sleep if I recall correctly - I was so enthralled I didn’t notice the pieces of these stories. Or I may hav e and just don’t remember now.
This collection is easy enough to find through the usual used book channels, and while these stories are not in the two volume Library of America set of Chandler’s works, they are to be found in the 1,300 page Raymond Chandler: Collected Stories published by Everyman’s Library, which contains all of Chandler’s short fiction, mystery and other. Whatever the source, it’s worth seeking these out. Very highly recommended.

I am an Australian who loves to read, travel and take photographs and when I can combine all three I am in heaven. I've always had a preference for mysteries and crime but over the past couple of years seem to have read almost to the exclusion of all else.

Bill Crider
Clea Simon
Kerrie Smith
Steve Lewis
Randy Johnson
Todd Mason
James Reasoner
George Kelley
Jeff Cohen
Eric Peterson
Paul Bishop
Rick Robinson
B.V. Lawson
Scott Parker

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Things I Didn't Expect to See When I was Twenty

Stem to stern tattoos! What about you?


I've been honored by Bill Crider, who's passed the One Lovely Blog Award on to me. Bill's blog was one of the first I ever read and I look at it at least once a day-mostly for Texas news, which is crucial to someone in Detroit. Or alligator news-same thing. He's a fabulous writer and person. His blog is a model of positive postings and lending a hand to anyone with a story online.

It is now my pleasure to pass on this award. These are the rules for those individuals I choose. They are simple:

1) Accept the award, and don’t forget to post a link back to the awarding person.
2) Pass the award on.
3) Notify the award winners.

As Bill said, I read so many blogs every day that to mention them all would take forever. I'm passing this on to a few of them, though I could list dozens more. Sandra Seamans, Kerrie Smith, Women of Mystery, and Ed Gorman. I am counting on them to pass it on to the other people I would like to list.

Aunt Agatha's Bookstore, Ann Arbor

From Aunt Agatha's in Ann Arbor
(Robin and Jamie Agnew)

Miniature Aunt Agathas Logo Plan to join us at the store on Friday, September 18 at 7:00 when authors Megan Abbott, Theresa Schwegel and Tasha Alexander join us to talk about their new books. Megan’s is Bury Me Deep, Theresa’s is Last Known Address, Tasha’s is Tears of Pearl. Please browse the website for reviews of Megan and Theresa’s latest books, with a review of Tasha’s latest added this month.

if I miss a forgotten book this week or post someone who didn't do one, I'll fix it up on Sunday. Please excuse. Or alternately, let me know today.