Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, October 19, 2018

"The siren on the top of the Dalton, North Dakota, fire station howls, as it does five days a week at this hour. Its wail frightens into flight the starlings that roost on the station roof every day yet never learn how fixed and foreseeable are human lives. The siren tells the town's working citizens and students what they already know. It's twelve o'clock, time for you to fly too. Put down your hammer, your pencil; close your books, cover your typewriter. Go home. Your wives and mothers are opening cans of soup and slicing bread and last night's roast beef for sandwiches. Come back in an hour, ready to put your shoulder to it, to add the figures, parse the sentences, calm the patients, please the customer."

Larry Watson LET HIM GO

If anyone cares to email me a piece of writing they admire in future weeks, that would be great.

FOOL'S GOLD chosen twice. I believe that has only happened once or twice.  

Mark Baker, CITY OF BONES, Michael Connelly
Les Blatt, MAIGRET TRAVELS, Georges Simenon
Elgin Bleecker, THE GLASS KEY, Dashiell Hammett
Brian Busby, TARGET 2067, CANADA'S SECOND CENTURY, Leonard Berlin
Martin Edwards, THE GETAWAY, Jim Thompson
Curt Evans, A TASTE OF POWER, W. J. Burley
Elizabeth Foxwell, THE HIDDEN WRATH, Stella Phillips
Richard Horton, ICE, Anna Kavan
George Kelley, THE GREAT SF STORIES 2 OF 1940, Asimov and Greenberg
Margot Kinberg, A KILLER HARVEST, Paul Cleaves
Rob Kitchin, UNDER THE FRANGIPANI, Mia Couto
B.V. Lawson, FOOL'S GOLD, Ted Wood
Evan Lewis, CONAN, THE MAGNIFICENT, Robert Jordan
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, A VERY BIG BANG, Philip McCutcheon
Todd Mason,  MYSTERY SCENE, November 1986, edited by Ed Gorman and Bob Randisi; SCIENCE FICTION EYE, March 1988, edited by Steve Brown and Dan Steffan; NEW ORLEANS STORIES, Winter 1993, edited by O’Neil De Noux
Matt Paust, IN THE BALANCE, Patricia Wentworth
James Reasoner, SLAVES FOR THE RENEGADE SULTAN, John Peter Drummond
Richard Robinson, STARSHIP TROOPERS, Robert A, Heinlein
Kevin Tipple, FOOL'S GOLD, Ted Wood

TracyK, BOOK OF THE DEAD, Elizabeth Daly

Monday, October 15, 2018


Planted  a hundred tulip bulbs all by myself, which entailed pulling the annuals out, raking the dirt, adding new dirt, planting the bulb, adding more dirt. And chasing squirrels away. We have more squirrels than people here. I have learned to do a lot of things in the last year-some I should have known how to do like how to pay bills with various codes, dates, etc. How to get things fixed, sometimes by finding a video on you tube and sometimes by figuring out who to call.
 I still am not driving and I doubt I will lick that one, but I have public transportation, uber and friends so it doesn't worry me as much as it did. And Phil can drive most of the time.

Enjoyed the movie, COLETTE.

Enjoyed my first DR. WHO although Phil not so much. He has even less interest in science fiction than me. Our loss, I know.

Started the new Lou Berney book THE NOVEMBER ROAD.

Had periodontal surgery this week and that was not fun, but it's over. 

What about you? 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, October 12, 2018

These is some of the crime fiction I was reading between 1989-92. This was during a period when I was trying to wean myself from reading so much of this genre. What were you reading?

Sleep and His Brother-Peter Dickinson
Well-Schooled in Murder-Elizabeth George
Burden of Proof-Scott Turow
Nemesis-Rosamond Smith
Going Wrong, The Crocodile Bird, Anna's Book-Ruth Rendell
Icy Clutches, Old Scores-Aaron Elkins
The Wench is Dead-Colin Dexter
H is for Homicide, I is for Innocent--Sue Grafton
Dancehall of the Dead, Coyote Waits--Tony Hillerman
A Ticket to the Boneyard, A Dance in the Slaughter House-Lawrence Block
Body in the Vestibule-Katherine Page
Shadow Play, Not That Kind of Place, Deep Sleep-Frances. Fyfield
A Simple Plan, Scott Smith
A Literary Murder-Batya Gur
Sculptress-Minette Walters
Past Reason Hated-Peter Robinson
Devil in a Blue Dress-Walter Mosley
Brian Busby, I FOUND CLEOPATRA, Thomas P. Kelly
Crossexaminingcrime, THE FIRST TIME HE DIED, Ethel Lina White
Martin Edwards, CUTTER AND BONE, Newton Thornberg
Richard Horton, Hierarchies, by John T. Phillifent/Mister Justice, by Doris Piserchia 
Nick Jones, Ringworld
George Kelley, THE COUNT OF 9, Erle Stanley Gardner
Margot Kinberg, THE HIDDEN ROOM, Stella Duffy
Evan Lewis, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, Ian Fleming
Todd Mason, THE HUGO WINNERS, Vol 3. annotated by, Isaac Asimov
Only Detect, DEATH IN A BOWL, Raoul Whitfield
Matthew Paust, THE DEAD SHALL BE RAISED, George Bellairs
James Reasoner, PIN A STAR ON A GIRL, Johnny Nelson
Richard Robinson, FANUILH, Daniel Hood
Gerard Saylor, THE BIG KEEP, Melissa F Olson
Kevin Tipple,  SINS FOR FATHER KNOX,  Josef Skvorecky (Reviewed by Barry Ergang)
TomCat, THE SLEEPING ISLAND, Frances Vivian
TracyK Book Sale Part 1 Forgotten Books
Erica Wright/THE RAPSHEET. A DRAM OF POISON, Charlotte Armstrong

Monday, October 08, 2018

Thanks for a new review

Hard to thank Damien Seaman enough for putting such an effort into reading my stories and having such great things to say about them. Also it's the start of his brand new blog. Even if you've heard enough about me for a lifetime, give his blog a look.


Very happy to have Megan here for two days. We got out to some restaurants, a movie, and Kevin's hockey game She and Kevin get along so well. Nice for both of them to have such an admirer.And nice for his parents to share the good time.
Julie and Josh
Megan and Kevin
Enjoying NEWS OF THE WORLD (Paulette Jiles) although I am reading it in two-minute chunks because the news of the world is so incredibly disheartening.
None of us enjoyed A STAR IS BORN much. Disliked the generic music that dominated it. Loved Sam Elliott though but disliked Cooper stealing his voice. We were in the minority in the theater where we saw it. Maybe the news of that day stole a good time from us. Have to see it again when we're feeling better about life.
Happy to have THE GOOD PLACE back on. Moderately enjoying SECRETS AND LIES although I found the POV less than ideal.
Fun to see how much Megan has learned about making a film. If DARE ME goes to series I can't see how she will be able to write a novel. It seems all-consuming.
Good friends are having their 60th anniversary in two weeks. They eloped from University of Wisconsin to Asheville NC 60 years ago. He drove from Dartmouth to Madison, WI and they took off. How romantic. 
What about you? 

Friday, October 05, 2018

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

First Wednesday Book Review Club

A drought exposes the remains of a village from fifty years earlier, and Inspector Banks is called in to try to discover how the skeleton of a woman buried there was murdered and by whom. This novel is done in the voice of a woman who lived in the village at that time (WW2) and in the voice of Banks. Sometimes this grows tedious in a story, but it never did here because both stories were equally interesting and, of course, connected. Banks is exploring the idea of beginning a relationship with Annie in this novel, trying to come to terms with his son's quitting school and starting a musical career, and ongoing trouble with his superior and ex-wife. So there is plenty of angst as well as a murder to solve. Robinson is so skilled at presenting a story that does not lean on twists, turns and violence. Thoroughly enjoyed this.

For more reviews, see Barrie Summy's blog. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Shopworn Angel

This is a movie that teetered on the brink of boring us. The production values were pretty low rent, the sentimentality overwhelming at times but the acting chops of Stewart and Sullavan (and Walter Pigeon) saved it in the end. The story is a Broadway star is sucked into entertaining a solider on the night before he ships out. Her ennui is palpable but his sincerity and innocence wins her over. Hattie McDaniels plays her maid. (Did she ever play anything else?) Stolid and not solid direction didn't help this. But there was an earlier version so I guess familiarity breeds content and not contempt sometimes. Rumor has it that Stewart and Sullivan had something going at the time and that may have helped light up the screen.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

The last weekend in September our local upscale grocery store sells lobsters for under ten bucks. We always cook them with our friends, Charlie and Rita. This year they were really big (almost 2 pounds) and the corn and coleslaw, strawberries and chocolate were great too.I didn't realize how pink things were till I saw this. Even the rose wine. (Phil is in the pink sweater).

Really enjoyed IN A DRY SEASON by Peter Robinson, if it was a big too long.

Glad THE GOOD PLACE is back. One of the few nertwork shows I watch. Also a great episode of BETTER CALL SAUL.

My screen porch floor is almost in. The next to the last box was the wrong color deck tiles. It will be great when it's all in. Although I guess we won't use it much until next year.

Megan flies in on Thursday for two days. We are looking forward to that.

Happy my son and his family went to Chicago to see HAMILTON and also the Michigan-Northwestern nail-biter. 

What about you?

Friday, September 28, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 28, 2018

I am a big Larry Watson fan and LET HIM GO did not disappoint. It is a great followup to books like WHITE CROSSES and MONTANA: 1948.

After their adult son is killed in an accident, his widowed wife marries again and leaves the Blackledge's home to go with her new husband to Montana. She takes their grandson with her, of course, and therein lies the problem.

"With you or without you," Margaret Blackledge insists, and at these words George knows his only choice is to follow her.

George takes to the road with Margaret by his side, tracking down the Weboy clan quickly. When Margaret tries to convince Lorna to return home to North Dakota, bringing little Jimmy with her, the Blackledges find themselves mixed up with the entire Weboy clan, a horrific family determined not to give the boy up without a fight. It's more about possession than love with a family like this. 

This slim volume contains a heart-pounding story, unforgettable characters, terrific atmosphere and some of the most beautiful prose you will ever read. I liked it almost as much as MONTANA: 1948, making it still one of my favorite books. Oh, to write like Mr. Watson.  

Brian Busby, FOUR DAYS, John Buell
Martin Edwards, EDITH'S DIARY, Patricia Highsmith
Curt Evans, DEATH OF AN OLD GIRL, Elizabeth Lemarchand
Richard Horton, THE BRIGHT FACE OF TERROR, Robert Nielsen Stephens
Jerry House, THE BRIGHTFOUNT DIARIES, Brian Aldiss
George Kelly, THE GREAT SF STORIES, edited by Asimov and Greenberg
Margot Kinberg, SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER, Charity Norman
Rob Kitchin,  THE ATROCITY ARCHIVE, Charles Stross
B.V. Lawson, VOICE OUT OF DARKNESS, Ursula Reilly Curtiss
Evan Lewis, TROUBLE COME AND GET IT!. Mickey Spillane
Steve Lewis, MURDER IN RED, Frank Castle
Todd Mason, THE DARK SIDE, ed. Damon Knight
J.F. Norris, THE THREE-FOLD CORD, Francis Vivian
Matt Paust, NIGHTFALL, David Goodis
Richard Robinson, HOW LIKE AN ANGEL, Margaret Millar
Gerard Saylor, BIRD AND SQUIRREL ON FIRE, James Burks
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, PEOPLE BEHAVING BADLY, John Ottini
TomCat, THE SINGING MASONS, Francis Vivian
TracyK, THE DROWNING POOL, Ross Macdonald

Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday Night Music


Enjoyed spending midday Saturday with all four of Kevin's grandparents listening to him play at Younger's Irish Tavern in Rome. Romeo is a charming town although sprawl continues to threaten it. Kevin came to play from his first cross-country meet. Kids today are really busy. Happy to hear middle school is going well.

A lot of strange TV shows, which we try to remain open to. Case in point: FOREVER (Amazon). Phil couldn't get into it at all but I moderately liked it. A little too vague though even for my tastes. I wonder if MANIAC (Netflix) is going to be more of the same.I couldn't get through the first episode of THE GOOD COP though. As a review said, only Tony Shaloub could pull this one off.

We were able to enjoy a dinner out with a friend and I enjoyed my first book club meeting of the fall where we chose the first three books to read. Always a challenge. We are very different readers.

Enjoying another Peter Robinson book (IN A DRY SEASON) and hoping I didn 't read it ten years ago. Oh,well. I should keep a list.

How about you?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 21, 2018


This is the third book of what McKinty calls THE TROUBLES TRILOGY. This won the Ned Kelly Award and I enjoyed it immensely. It's a locked room murder inside a story of the troubles. I have not read the first two books so that probably factors in to a certain lack of knowledge of the character and his problems with the Royal Ulster Constabulary,

Sean Duffy has a chance for reinstatement in the local forces if he is able to find the whereabouts of an infamous IRA member. The two were childhood friends so this gives him a certain insight into the terrorist. His deal with those who can tell him Dermot's whereabouts is to solve the locked room murder of their daughter a few years back. And watching Duffy solve this crime is enjoyable. McKinty writes very clearly and yet doesn't repeat himself. It's a pleasure to be led through the clues by such a good plotter.

Also enjoyable is McKinty's use of Joseph Kennedy Jr. on a trip to Belfast. And the final scenes, which take place during Margaret Thatcher's stay in a Brighton Hotel, are exciting. I liked the style of writing and the cast of characters a lot. We get some of Duffy's life but not enough to slow the action down. I also really like the single POV in this book. It does make following a plot easier. Highly recommended for crime fiction lovers.

Frank Babics, CONJURE WIFE, Fritz Leiber
Mark Baker, MURDER ON MARBLE ROW, Victoria Thompson
Les Blatt, THE WIDOW's CRUISE, Nicholas Blake
Elgin Bleecker, STOOL PIGEON, Louis Malley
Brian Busby, Five Short Canadian Plays, Fred Jacob
Crossexaminingcrime, POISON IN JEST, John Dickson Carr
Martin Edwards, MURDER'S FEN, Andrew Garve
Curt Evans, THE RELUCTANT MURDERER, Bernice Carey
Richard Horton, DREK  YARMAN, Keith Roberts
George Kelley, WAR OF THE DONS/BLACK MAFIA, Peter Rabe
Margot Kinberg, MARLBOROUGH MAN, Alan Carter
Rob Kitchin, FLETCH, Gregory McDonald
Kate Laity, A FAR CRY FROM KENSINGTON, Muriel Spark
B.V. Lawson, DEATH OF A DUTCHMAN, Magdelen Nabb
Evan Lewis, THE DOOM LEGION, Will Murray
Steve Lewis, THE BUY BACK BLUES, Frank Dennis
Todd Mason,  MY LIFE AS A CARTOONIST by Harvey Kurtzman as told to Howard Zimmerman
Only Detect, HALO FOR SATAN, Howard Browne
Matt Paust, DETECTIVE INSPECTOR HUSS, Helene Tursten
James Reasoner, SCARRED FACES, Hank Janson
Richard Robinson, THE BOOKMAN, Lavie Tildar
Kevin Tipple. MURDER ON THE ICE, Ted Wood
TomCat, Vegetable Duck, John Rhoade
TracyK, LIMBO LINE, Victor Canning

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Forgotten Movies-Le Samoura

Le Samoura is an 1967 movie by Jean Paul Melville. It tells the story of a hitman played by Alain Delon who is moody, sinister, a blank slate really. It is mostly about style although there are some good sequences-well, a lot really. It is considered neo-noir. I wonder when noir ended and neo noir began. I guess this was the film that made Delon and his wife plays his girlfriend. But the fabulous Cathy Rosier as a nighclub piano player was the more memorable woman in the film. This is so much more mood than dialog it was a long time before we had to read subtitles. On finishing the film, I was not overly impressed but a day later, I think it was pretty terrific. And I may not have come to that conclusion if I hadn't decided to write this up. You can watch it for Delon's gorgeous eyes if nothing else.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Enjoyed THE WIFE with Glen Close. It seemed familiar to me though. I may just have read the novel but kept wondering if that same premise hadn't been used before.

Reading Sarah Weinman's book THE REAL LOLITA. Once again, I read the Sally Horner story in some magazine (THE NEW YORKER?) but Weinman has a lot more to say about Nabokov especially.

Finished up OZARK and it finished pretty strong. The women are certainly the dominant characters. Good for Jason Batement for stepping back and letting them take center stage so much.

I could love September so much more if what comes next didn't hover over it like the angel of death.

How about you?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

Some late additions to FFB

An explanation: my life is very unpredictable now and if an entry is not up when I first do them in the morning, sometimes I am gone all day. (Like today and you would not want to know what I was doing).
So I apologize for late additions. The best bet might be posting them a day early if possible.

Yvette Banek, SPINSTERS IN JEOPARDY, Ngaio Marsh
Crossexaminingcrime, MURDER UNDERGROUND, Mavis Doriel Hay
J.F. Norris, MURDER ON THE MARSH, John Ferguson

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 14, 2018

AFTERMATH, Peter Robinson

It is not until the end of the book that you realize that almost every character has an aftermath of sorts to deal with in this excellent mystery. DCI Banks has irrevocably lost his wife to a new love and a new pregnancy. The female detectives at police headquarters are reeling from issues arising from their own pasts. The neighbor who alerts the police of the crime is struggling with the past she has fled from. And, of course, there is the aftermath of a vicious crime of a decade earlier that Banks has to solve. This is perhaps the darkest Robinson book I have read. And normally, I would have shied away from all the violence it spews out. But Robinson does it so expertly that you are too far in before you realize what you are up against. And that is the reader's aftermath. Serial killer, serial rapist, it's all in here.

Yvette Banek
Les Blatt, MURDER A LA MODE, Patricia Moyes
Crossexaminingcrime, THE PURSUED, C.S. Forester
Martin Edwards, A RAGE IN HARLEM, Chester Himes
Curt Evans, THE BEAUTIFUL STRANGER, Bernice Carey
Richard Horton, THE IMPOSSIBLE BIRD, Patrick O'Leary
Jerry House, CREED, James Herbert
Margot Kinberg, DOWN CEMETERY ROAD, Mick Herron
Rob Kitchin, THE CITY IN DARKNESS, Michael Russell
B.V. Lawson, HOME IS THE PRISONER, Jean Potts
Evan Lewis, THE BUCCANEERS, Alice Sankey and Russ Manning
Steve Lewis, MURDER PLAIN AND FANCY, Gardland Lord
Todd Mason, THE SHAPE OF THINGS, ed. Damon Knight; THE UNKNOWN 5, ed. D.R. Bensen
J.F. Norris
Matt Paust, INTRUDER IN THE DARK, George Bellairs
James Reasoner, PULPWOOD DAYS, Vol 2, John Locke ed.
Richard Robinson, KILLER IN THE RAIN, Raymond Chandler
Gerard Saylor, THE REST IS SILENCE, James R. Benn
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, DEATH KNELL,.Baynard Kendrick
TracyK, CHARLIE CHAN, Yunte Huang

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society-book and film

Hey, wait a minute. I read this novel a few years ago and although it had romantic elements, it told the reader a lot about the horrors of the German occupation of the Channel Islands, and its aftermath. How the disruption of life in an isolated community might be more severe than in other places.
Well, yes that's here, but it gets far less play than watching Lily James choose a mate. When historical fiction becomes historical romance, it can be a disservice to the material and I think that was the case here. Hire a director that made FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL and a movie can take a decided altar turn.
Writer, Juliet begins a correspondence with a fellow on Guernsey and his stories about the occupation cause her to travel there and meet the members of his reading club. But we hear very little of those stories and even the central one is squeezed in amongst more romantic interludes. Cute kids, scenic vistas, kooky characters, pigs and sheep take center stage too. So if you have come to learn, dear viewer, she married him.
However, taken on its own terms, it was not a complete waste of two hours. It's on Netflix.

Monday, September 10, 2018


I am happy that my daughter-in-law invited her mother and me to attend the Eleanor Roosevelt dinner in a few weeks with her. At this event, all the local women running for office as Democrats get a chance to talk to the group. I am very lucky that her mother and I get along so well. We belong to the same book group and often go out to lunch or an event together. I know this is not always the case. But we are very similar in many ways: both movie and book lovers, both Dems, both crazy about the same little boy. Who is not so little now. He is about the same height as us.

Phil got out three times this week. We saw two movies and had a lunch and a dinner with various friends. For the moment things are looking good. Fingers crossed.

Enjoyed JULIET NAKED and SEARCHING at the movies. Enjoyed AFTERMATH by Peter Robinson. OZARK seems too much like last year's version although I have to give them credit with keeping the plot moving at breakneck speed. BETTER CALL SAUL is a much better show to me. Didn't like JACK RYAN but Phil might.

Beginning to thin out the annuals. I never was completely in charge of the garden before this year and it shows a difference in philosophy. I am a big one for thinning things out whereas Phil likes to thicken it up.

What about you?

Friday, September 07, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 7, 2018

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

Mark Baler, L IS FOR LAWLESS, Sue Grafton
Elgin Bleecker, DARK HAZARD, W.R. Burnett
Brian Busby, DOORS OF THE NIGHT, Frank L. Packard
Martin Edwards, IN A LONELY PLACE, Dorothy Hughes
Curt Evans, JOHNNY ON THE SPOT. Amen Dell
Richard Horton, A MIRROR FOR OBSERVERS, Edgar Pangborn
Jerry House, DANNY DUNN, SCIENTIFIC DETECTIVE, Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin
Margot Kinberg, E.C.R. Lorac, BATS IN THE BELFRY
Rob Kitchin, THIS THING OF DARKNESS, Harry Bingham
B.V. Lawson, GIDEON'S FIRE, John Creasy
Evan Lewis, BALL FOUR, Jim Bouton
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, BLACK HORNET, James Sallis
Todd Mason, FAR OUT, Damon Knight
J.F. Norris, THE GHOST IT WAS, Richard Hull
Matt Paust, THE PAPERS OF SOLAR PONS, August Derleth
James Reasoner, GHOST MINE GOLD. Walker Tompkins
Richard Robinson, THREE TIMES A VICTIM, F. L. Wallace
Gerard Saylor, TOMMY RED, Charlie Stella
Kerrie Smith, THE PARIS SECRET, Karen Swan
Kevin Tipple, DEAD IN THE WATER, Ted Wood

Thursday, September 06, 2018


John Cho thinks he knows everything about this fifteen year old daughter. Turns out he doesn't know much at all and this handicaps him when she goes missing. A police detective (Debra Messing) takes an interest and the two of them try to track her down. The entire story is told through computer screens and uses its capabilities to find the missing girl. I thought I would grow bored with it, as I often do with epistolary novels, but it worked pretty well. It's a clever setup and just when I thought I had solved it, I turned out to be wrong. The film was directed by Aneesh Chaganty. Give it a try.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Forgotten Movies: THE GOODBYE GIRL

This movie from 1977 has always been a favorite of mine and it held up very well. I have to give Richard Dreyfus a lot of the credit for creating such a distinctive character in Elliott. Mason is good too but her role is more generic. And Quinn Cummings was a terrific child actor. It is hard to believe RD is only 29 years old here. He could easily be a decade older. Neil Simon had a knack for bringing both warmth and humor to a story without it being saccharine and that was true here. If Mason's character was a bit too weepy I can live with that.

Monday, September 03, 2018


Another week where it is difficult to find good things. Maybe I am looking for miracles instead of little moments. Anyway, I am really enjoying AFTERMATH by Peter Robinson. I was puzzled about the acclaim CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN got. Seems pretty ordinary to me.

So far OZARK is not knocking me out. It seems like more of the same stuff as last year. The acting is swell but talk about unlikable characters. When Marty Byrde finds his daughter is smoking pot all he can think about is whether she might talk under the influence. Ugh.

Although I continue to enjoy BETTER CALL SAUL. Phil finds that inconsistent as he sees them as similar in their portrayal of evil.

Glad to get out with friends Saturday night. I am probably pushing Phil to do this but I think he needs to get out and talk to other people. He also went to his Sunday morning boys's club.

Megan wraps up the pilot for DARE ME. She has had so much fun taking on this new challenge. Going back to NY must be difficult. It will be some time before USA decides on it. 

What about you?

Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday Night Music

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 31, 2018

 Bill Crider (from archives)

Forgotten Books: EPITAPH FOR A TRAMP -- David Markson (

I first read this book a few decades ago, and I have copies of both the Dell and Berkley editions. But for some reason I picked up another copy the other day. I guess I couldn't resist. Markson wrote a sequel, Epitaph for a Dead Beat, that I also read, but he didn't write crime novels much longer. He moved on to become the highly regarded author of such postmodern novels as Wittengenstein's Mistress, a book much praised by the likes of David Foster Wallace.

For all that, the two books about Harry Fannin are more or less conventional private-eye novels, with maybe a few more literary allusions than most. In this one, Fannin finds himself in a classic situation. His ex-wife dies at his doorstep, and there's a lot of missing money that other people are looking for. Fannin and his cop buddy investigate, and the first solution isn't the right one. I remembered the second solution from my first reading, but it was probably obvious even then.

I liked the voice of the book quite a bit, and I liked the writing. I was bothered a little by the gay-bashing, which I probably didn't even notice forty years ago. I remember thinking that Markson must have read Ross Macdonald, though that didn't seem so obvious this time. Macdonald handles some gay issues in The Drowning Pool, and he does so more circumspectly than Markson. But Markson's book was published in 1959, some years after Macdonald's. Some of the dialogue might seem dated to modern ears, but to mine it was still amusing. I'd certainly recommend this novel, and if you run across a copy, give it a try.

Mark Baker. LOST LEGACY, Annette Dashofy
Yvette Banek, MURDER MAKES MISTAKES, George Bellairs
Les Blatt, AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW, Elizabeth Daily
CrossExaminingCrime, TILL DEATH DO US PART, John Dickson Carr
Martin Edwards, THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, Minette Marrin
Curt Evans, THE MAN WITH TWO WIVES, Patrick Quentin
Richard Horton, THE FOUR FEATHERS, A. E. W. Mason
Jerry House, ELECTION DAY 2084, ed. Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
Margot Kinberg, FACES OF THE GONE, Brad Parks
Rob Kitchin, THE SHINING GIRLS, Lauren Beukes
Kate Laity, SWITZERLAND, Joanna Murray-Smith
Evan Lewis, WATERFRONT FISTS, Robert E. Howard
Steve Lewis, SEEING IS BELIEVING, Carter Dickson
Matt Paust, LAST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, Colin Dexter
James Reasoner, THE WATER BEND FEUD, William MacLeod Raine
Richard Robinson, A FALL OF MOONDUST, Arthur C. Clarke
Kevin Tipple, BAD LITTLE FALLS, Paul Doiron
Tomcat, FLASHPOINT, John Russell Fearn
TracyK, DARK PASSAGE, David Goodis

Monday, August 27, 2018

A little more about the father thing

My brother has pretty much confirmed that Jack William Yarnall (top photo) is my biological father. And Ralph Edward Nase (below) is not. He traced it through two different sites. It is possible that Jack was a one-night stand although knowing my mother, I doubt it. But  I am doubtful it was much more than that because he was only 19 on the night in question. My mother was 24. There are so many strange things about all of this but this is one of them.

In many of the stories I have written there is a girl looking for her father. SHOT IN DETROIT and HOME INVASION in particular) I never had any way of knowing this was my circumstance when I wrote those stories. Actually the idea of a missing father came from my best friend at age 12-14, a girl who haunted library phone directory rooms trying to find her Dad. So the thing that haunted my friend was also my situation. Did I know this on some level? I doubt it.

Do we all have a mystery? One we may not even ever know.


We are having a Roy Scheider festival, having watched THE FRENCH CONNECTION and JAWS this week. Both were terrific. JAWS has defined summer since it debuted--for good and bad. Next up ALL THE JAZZ or THE SEvEN-UPS.

Very much enjoyed the movie PUZZLE, about a woman who finds herself when she discovers her facility for jigsaw puzzles. Beautifully acted.

Still reading EDUCATED, which is depressing and yet worth it. The best intentions of a crazy person can be the worst thing of all. She is far too easy on her father's culpability in a lot of bad incidents.

I have run out of steam with cooking so I am grateful for Trader Joe's frozen food section. There is only so much time in a day.

How about you? 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 24, 2018

(from the archives)
Steve Weddle graduated with an MFA in poetry from Louisiana State University.
Weddle, a former English professor, now works for a newspaper group in
Virginia and writes fiction.

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein

How’s this for a great story? A Yale grad and Navy lieutenant tries to get a reporter’s job at the Washingt
on Post, but only gets a two-week tryout. His boss doesn’t like him enough to hire him, but gives him a job at a weekly paper in the suburbs. In 1971, he moves to the Post.
One night five guys were arrested for a break-in. This metro/crime reporter covers it along with someone who was never mistaken for a Navy lieutenant, the child of communists who’d begun work at the Washington Star as a copy boy when he was a teenager.
Together, these two young reporters -- one a Yale-graduated, Navy lieutenant with little journalistic experience and the other a disheveled reporter with plenty of experience but no comb -- solved a political mystery that would unseat the US President.
All The President’s Men was published in 1974 and is every bit as procedural a mystery as anything you will ever read.
Bob Woodward, with a degree from Yale and hardly any writing experience, works a contact from his Navy days to keep pointed in the right direction.
Carl Bernstein travels to Florida to dig through files and check stubs, finally finding a link to a Presidential slush fund.
Together the two of them sneak around the suburbs of Washington, DC, talking to secretaries and acco
untants, all of whom fear for their safety.
The prose is straightforward and gripping, with enough suspense to make you forget about Dan Brown.
All The President’s Men is a fantastic mystery, a timeless exploration of power, greed, and corruption, with clearly defined villains and heroes who continue to find themselves well out of their depths.
Political thriller, mystery, procedural, all thrown together with an incredible narrative, this book should be read by every mystery lover out there because it truly contains a gripping story that you can’t put down.

Mark Baker, LOST LUGGAGE, Wendell Thomas
Yvette Banek, RIVER OF NO RETURN, Bee Ridgway
Les Blatt, LONELY HEART 4122, Colin Watson
Martin Edwards, THE HANGED MAN OF SAINT- PHOLIEN, Georges Simenon
Richard Horton, THE FLAXBOROUGH CRAB, Colin Watson
Jerry House, LANDS OF THE EARTHQUAKE, Henry Kuttner
George Kelley, THE REMINISCENCES OF SOLAR PONS, August Derleth
Margot Kinberg, BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE, Martin Walker
Rob Kitchin, KOLYMSKY HEIGHTS, Lionel Davidson
B.V. Lawson, THE MYSTERY OF THE BOULE CABINET, Burton Stephenson
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, THE LAKE EFFECT, Les Roberts
Todd Mason,  THE WAR BOOK edited by James Sallis; A SHOCKING THING edited by Damon Knight
J.F. Norris, MYSTERY AT OLYMPIA, John Rhode 
Juri Numellin, FURY, Jason Pinter
Matt Paust, GENTLY DOES IT, Alan Hunter 
James Reasoner, THE SALAMANDERS, Maxwell Grant 
Richard Robinson, THE CARETAKER'S CAT, Erle Stanley Gardner
Gerard Saylor, SHARPE'S TIGER  Bernard Cornwell
Kevin Tipple, TRESPASSER, Paul Doiron
TracyK, THE BIG OVER EASY, Jasper Fforde