Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, June 22, 2018

THE WALKAWAY by Scott Phillips (recommended by Jay Stringer)

THE WALKAWAY was literally a forgotten book for me. At least, it was until recently. I had it on my bookshelf, right next to THE ICE HARVEST which I’m a big fan of.
But something about the follow up stopped me from cracking it open. Maybe it was because it was about Gunther. Really? Of all the characters to follow up with?
He didn’t seem to have any pull for me, not compared to all the other characters that had been drawn so vividly in the first book. More fool me.
One of the strengths of Scott’s writing is that he can take that and make you feel foolish. He invests character into every part that he writes, no matter how small, so that there is something there to return to and draw you in. At this point, I couldn’t imagine the book without Gunther.
It’s a complex book to describe, but a very simple one to read. It spans two time periods, one in the 1950’s and one in the 1980’s. The former is a deliciously messed up slice of noir; it has pimps, addicts, sleaze and violence. It has a sex lottery, and a sociopathic soldier who wants apiece of the action. In the middle of this, Gunther Fahnstiel fins himself trying his best to stop everything going to hell.
The 1980’s builds on this story, but is a separate narrative. Gunther got very lucky at the end of THE ICE HARVEST, but that luck didn’t solve all his problems. The end of the decade finds him living in a care home, fighting a losing battle to keep his memory. Through all of that, though, he is still trying to put things right. He knows that he has something out there somewhere that will bring back his wife and help his friends. He just can’t remember what it is or where he left it.
I can’t think of many, if any, books that manage to combine so many dark noir elements with a real heart and tenderness. This has some real heart of darkness stuff, make no mistake, but it boils down to a very simple and moving love story.
It tends to get billed as both the sequel and the prequel to THE ICE HARVEST. And sure, it is both of those. But that doesn’t really do the book justice, it stands alone as one of the best crime novels of this decade or any other.

Frank Babics, KEEPING HOUSE, Michael Blumlein
Mark Baker, K IS FOR KILLER, Sue Grafton
Les Blatt, KEEP IT QUIET, Richard Hull
Elgin Bleecker, HORNS FOR THE DEVIL, Louis Malley
Brian Busby, DEEPER IN THE FOREST, Roy Daniels
Martin Edwards, GO LOVELY ROSE, Robert Barnard
Curt Evans, The Crime Novels of Sara Elizabeth Mason
CrossExamingCrime, A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED, Agatha Christie
Richard Horton, The Nemesis from Terra, by Leigh Brackett/Collision Course, by Robert Silverberg
Jerry House, WEEPING MAY TARRY, Raymond Jones and Lester DelRey
George Kelley, YEAR'S BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS 1953, Bleiler and Dikty
Margot Kinberg, PLUGGED, Eoin Colger
Rob Kitchin, BONE ISLAND MAMBO, Tom Corcoran
Kate Laity, TWO FACES OF JANUARY, Patricia Highsmith
B.V. Lawson, NINE COACHES WAITING, Mary Stewart
Steve Lewis, BORROWER OF THE NIGHT, Elizabeth Peters
Todd Mason, ESQUIRE'S WORLD OF HUMOR edited by Lewis W. Gillenson ; TRUMP: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (ESSENTIAL KURTZMAN, V. 2) edited by Denis Kitchen; THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2015 edited by Jonathan Lethem and Bill Kartalopoulos (
J.F. Norris, THE ANGEL OF DEATH, Philip Lorraine
James Reasoner, THE MELTING DEATH, Curtis Steele
Richard Robinson, What I Read, Part 9 
Gerard Saylor, THE LIKENESS, Tana French
Kerrie Smith, THE LIAR IN THE LIBRARY, Simon Brett
Kevin Tipple, THORNS ON ROSES, Randy Rawls
TracyK, THE BECKETT FACTOR, Michael David Anthony

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My First Best Friend

 My movie today was going to be WINTER'S LIGHT but Film Struck struck out. So....



My first best friend  (originally posted in 2013) 

was Sally Walton (left, on Easter, 1956 at 7613 Gilbert St. Philadelphia).

When I was five, a girl finally moved onto our street in Philadelphia. She had brown hair and gray eyes and was beautiful. She liked all the things I liked. People used to call us the Bobbsey Twins. Although if you looked carefully, you would see her fingernails were always clean, her socks never drooped.

I bossed her around mercilessly. (She was tolerant of bossy friends)

Her mother served us pretzels and pepsi on a tray, which I found amazing. We made tents that went on for miles. Her mother had trunks full of costumes we liked to dress up in. We did all the things girly girls did in the fifties. She was good at the hula hoop and skating. I was good at hopscotch and jacks. We each had a Ginny doll. Hers was pristine. Mine was so messy it had to be replaced. We had sleepovers. We were Brownies together. She was a Methodist. I was a Lutheran.

In sixth grade, we finally landed in the same classroom, our dream come true. Oddly, this was the beginning of the end because she had built up a group of classroom friends and so had I. It was hard to separate home from school. Doris got her attention at recess. Ruth had mine.

When we went off to junior high school, I found more new friends and so did she. I should have kept in touch with Sally Walton. I wonder where she is now. Happy and healthy I hope. I am betting her fingernails are cleaner than mine. But maybe she doesn't garden.

Who was your first friend?

Such glamor inside our teensy row house. We are six.

The boy is my brother, Jeff. We are at the zoo and I remember this day. It was the only time I remember being there until Phil and I went there years later.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

The Dakota Inn Rathskeller was opened on August 1, 1933 by Karl Kurz, the Grandfather of Karl E. Kurz, the present owner. EIGHTY FOUR years later, Detroit’s only authentic German bar is still going strong! We celebrated my daughter-in-law's mother's birthday there on Saturday night.

Thursday night we attended a performance of the Great Lakes Chamber Series with our friends the Boyles, which takes place every June at many venues over several weeks. The concert we saw was at the gorgeous Kirk in the Hills Church.

                                      My son and family came over for Father's Day. A nice time.Kevin is now a middle-schooler. Where did the years go?

Very much enjoying Bailey and Scott on Amazon Prime.

What about you?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday , June 15, 2018

GUN WITH OCCASIONAL MUSIC, Jonathan Lethem from Deborah (Debby) Atkinson,

Years ago, I was browsing a San Francisco bookstore when someone recommended a book that looked pretty quirky to my unfamiliar eye. It was Gun, with Occasional Music, published in 1994, and I'd never heard of Jonathan Lethem. After I read Gun, I started paying attention.
I write crime fiction, so about 75% of what I read is in that genre, and I use that term inclusively: mystery, thriller, suspense, and so on. Every now and then, I read sci-fi, which if it's good, is beyond good—it's fantastic. These finds seem rarer than the fantastic mystery/suspense novel, though maybe I'm just inexperienced, and someone here can point me in the right direction.
With Gun, with Occasional Music, Lethem did it all. He captured Raymond Chandler's noir setting and injected the futuristic pessimism of Philip K. Dick, with a dash here and there of Frank Herbert's Dune (mind altering, government-issued drugs), and compelling animal protagonists à la Eric Garcia. Gun has sheep, apes, rabbits, and other species, all "evolved" to speak English and make protagonist Conrad Metcalf's life more difficult. Wait until you meet Joey Castle, the enforcer kangaroo.
Best of all, though, are characters that are original, appealing, and sympathetic. The dialogue crackles, the scenes are intense, and you'll love Metcalf despite his foibles.
I also loved Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn (1999), but this one made more of a splash in the mystery community, so I probably don't have to sing its praises quite as loudly. Lionel Essrog, the protagonist of Motherless, has Tourette's syndrome. Yet Essrog's outbursts ring with not only profanity, but brilliance, heart, and desperation. The dialogue and characters are outstanding. The writing is inspirational, poetic at times. And the mystery ain't bad, either.
I hope you enjoy Lethem's work as much as I do. 

Mark Baker, MURDER ON MULBERRY BEND, Victoria Thompson
Les Blatt, DEATH ON THE AISLE, Richard and Frances Lockridge
Brian Busby, ARCTIC RENDEVOUS,Keith Edgar
CrossExaminingCrime, VANISH IN AN INSTANT, Margaret Millar
Martin Edwards, THE CRACK IN THE TEACUP, Michael Gilbert
Richard Horton, INVITATION TO LIVE, Lloyd C.Douglas
Jerry House, PHANTOM, Thomas Tessier
George Kelley,  THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES: 1953 Edited by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty
Margot Kinberg, THE LOST, Claire McGowan
Steve Lewis/Walker Martin, The Non-Maigret Novels of Georges Simenon 
Todd Mason, ADVENTURES IN THE SPACE TRADE: A Memoir by Richard Wilson  FANTASTIC WORLDS Nos. 3, 4 & 5, edited by Sam Sackett; COLD SNAP by Thom Jones: Limited Promotional Sampler The Very Small Press, and a Brief Form of a Little, Brown Book
Juri Nummelin, BARBARY SLAVE, Kevin Matthews

Richard Robinson, What I Read, Part 8
Matt Paust, THE OVERSTORY, Richard Powers
James Reasoner, THE WIDOW, Orrie Hitt
TomCat, THE CASE OF THE TUDOR QUEEN, Christopher Bush
TracyK, CUTTER AND BONE, Newton Thornburg
Zybahn,KEEPING HOUSE, Michael Blumlein

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Forgotten Movies: Young Man with a Horn

Taking advantage of our new Criterion/Filmstruck Channel, we ended up watching this last week. I don't think I had ever seen it and it reminded me how Kirk Douglas had some acting chops back in the day. He was very convincing as a musician. Doris Day plays the good girl/Lauren Bacall, the bad and Hoagy Carmichael is his long time pal. The film gets a little murky about 2/3 through. Not sure what exactly brought him back from the brink. Maybe just the love of some good friends. Lots of great music, and lots of well-filmed scenes. I have the novel somewhere. Maybe that will spell it out a bit better. Hollywood did impose strictures on movies in the forties and fifties.

What are some of the great films about musicians? Or novels? 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Things that are Making Me Happy

Lucky to see a concert version of TURANDOT, which utilized the entire DSO and several huge choirs. It was three hours of gorgeous music. It was sad that Leonard Slatkin had to miss his last few performances due to heart surgery. He has been a real blessing to the DSO and Detroit.

Also saw the best movie I have seen so far this year FIRST REFORMED. Ethan Hawkes gets better with each film and this film is Paul Schrader's masterpiece at age 72. Hope it comes your way. Certainly it is not a happy film but it is a redemptive one.

Reading MRS. FLETCHER by Tom Perotta and essays by Sloane Crossley and short stories by Curtis Sittenfeld.

Finishing up the final three episodes of THE STAIRCASE on Netflix. Seems like I have been watching this saga all my adult life.

And this..

Friday, June 08, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, June 8, 2018

Pick-Up by Charles Willeford (from the archives)

When was the last time you read a book so compelling you couldn't put it down? What was it?
For me, it was this novel. It takes a long time in Pick-Up for the reader to understand the protagonist and what he's all about. Why he's in the fix he's in. Maybe you won't understand the full story until the last line. And yet, Willeford is able to tell his story lucidly, making even the most mundane details riveting.
This is basically a story about two drunks. Why does it work so well? Better for me even than Kennedy's drunks in Albany. Because the characters are interesting, the narrative pull inescapable, the writing excellent.
Even when the plot turns a bit unlikely in the last third--the characters remain true to themselves, so you go along with it.

Yvette Banek, THE BOX OFFICE MURDERS, Freeman Wills Crofts
Elgin Bleecker, THE SAINT, MILLION POUND DAY, Leslie Charteris
Brian Busby, FORD NATION, Rob and Doug Ford
CrossExaminingCrime,  NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO DIE, ELizabeth Tebberts-Taylor
Martin Edwards, THE MAN WHO LOVED LIONS, Ethel Lina White
Curt Evans, GRAVE MATTERS, Margaret Yorke
Charles Gramlich, THE SNAKE MAN'S BAN, Howie K. Bentley; STEPSONS OF TERRA, Robert Silverberg
Richard Horton,  The Duplicated Man, by James Blish and Robert Lowndes
Jerry House, EASY GO, Michael Crichton
Geroge Kelley,  YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS: 1952 Edited By Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty
Margot Kinberg, TENANT FOR DEATH, Cyril Hare
Rob Kitchin, WITHOUT THE MOON, Cathi Unsworth
B.V. Lawson, I'LL SING YOU TWO O, Anthea Frasier
Evan Lewis, THE LEGION OF THE LIVING DEAD, Carroll John Daly
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, MURDER ON HIGH, Stephanie Mattison
Todd Mason, 1951 Newstand Photos and Magazines on Display
J.F. Norris, AND TO MY BELOVED HUSBAND, Philip Loraine
Matt Paust, SHUTTER ISLAND, Dennis Lehane
James Reasoner, RICHARD BOLITHO, MIDSHIPMAN, Alexander Kent
Richard Robinson, WHAT I READ, Part 7
Gerard Saylor, EXIT STRATEGY, Steve Hamilton
Kevin Tipple. JADE'S PHOTOS, Randy Rawls
TomCat, THE BACK BAY MURDERS, Roger Scarlett
TracyK, TRAITOR'S PURSE, Margery Allingham

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

First Wednesday Book Review Club; THAT KIND OF MOTHER. Rumaan Alam

In 1985 Rebecca Stone is ill-prepared for motherhood. Breastfeeding turns out to nearly undo her so the idea of hiring the helpful woman from the hospital seems like a great idea. And it is. The two women bond instantly and life for the would-be poet smooths out.

Priscilla, an older black woman, dies unexpectedly in childbirth early on and because the bond between the two women was so strong, it extends to how Rebecca feels about Priscilla's orphan son. There is a sister who could take him in, but she is a new mother too. So Rebecca ends up raising her own son and Priscilla's.

This was an easy book to read and perhaps the problems it raises are solved a bit too handily. No one really makes too much of a fuss about a white family with a black son. Problems you expect to surface do so with not much more than a ripple.

Alam is a gentle writer and you get the idea he is saying that kindness goes a long way. And I agree. Lovely writing from who I know must be a lovely man.

For more reviews, see Barrie Summy. 

Monday, June 04, 2018

Monday Music

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Enjoyed THAT KIND OF MOTHER, Rumaan Alam. Also THE TALE, on HBO with Laura Dern. Also somewhat, ON CHESIL BEACH, which follows the novel closely. Saoirse Ronan has a great body of work under her belt already.
Our flowers are in, a bit more difficult than usual this year. Our beauty bushes are in full bloom.
Our cleaner and her husband are redoing our screened porch in a few weeks, which should be a big improvement because it sits in plain view. Enjoying the interviews on the Criterion Channel. Fun hearing what movies various people were drawn to.
How about you? What's going on there?


Friday, June 01, 2018


(Something of a spoiler alert) (from the archives)

Nemesis by Philip Roth.

Nemesis is the story of a polio epidemic in Newark in 1944 and especially about its impact on a Mr. Canter, who runs a playground program and is about to become engaged.

Roth does an excellent job of showing the effects of polio on this small neighborhood, in relaying the horrible progression of the epidemic, which cruelly was most often contracted by kids.

But at Nemesis' end and despite my interest in this polio epidemic plot, I realized it wasn't really about polio. What it was about was the way in which individuals deal with the onslaught of horror in their lives. How some people can go on fairly effectively, not let things like disease or war or economic disasters corrupt their lives. But others cannot get past their terrible luck, and the idea that this turn of events was unjust. They didn't deserve it so it completely derails them. The bitterness poisons everything.

I have read many books by Roth but apparently his last four books have dealt with this theme and I am most interested in seeing how his other characters deal with the fall of the sword. Highly recommended.

Mark Baker, WATCHMAN, Robert Crais
Yvette Banek. ALIAS BASIL WILLING, Helen McCloy
Les Blatt, BATS IN THE BELFRY, E.C. R. Lorac
Brian Busby, ARCTIC RENDEVOUS, Keith Edgar
Martin Edwards, THE AFFAIR AT LITTLE WOKEHAM, Freeman Will Crofts
CrossExaminingCrime, THE STICKLEPATH STRANGLER, Michael Jecks
Curt Evans, THE CASE OF THE PLATINUM BLONDE, Christopher Bush
Richard Horton, COLD IRON, Melissa Michaels
Jerry House, THE OUTLAW OF TORN, Edgar Rice Burroughs
George Kelley, THE YEAR'S BEST SCIENCE FICTION, 4, Gardner Dozois
Rob Kitchin, NIGHT LIFE, David C. Taylor
B.V. Lawson, THE HANGING DOLL MURDER, Roger Ormerod
Steve Lewis, THE BROKEN ANGEL, Floyd Mahannah
Todd Mason, REEL TERROR, ed. Sebastian Wolfe, and Peter Haining
J.F. Norris, THE WEIRD WORLD OF WES BEATTIE, John Norman Harris
Margot Kinberg, INTO THE SHADOWS, Shirley Wells
James Reasoner, PORTRAIT IN SMOKE, Bill S. Ballinger
Richard Robinson, WHAT I READ, Part 6
Gerard Saylor, SHOTGUN LOVESONGS, Nickolas Butler
Kerrie Smith, ROGUE LAWYER, John Grisham
Kevin Tipple, SHOTS FIRED, C.J.Box
TomCat, WOBBLE TO DEATH, Peter Lovesey
TracyK, A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED, Agatha Christie

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Le Chat

We are now subscribers to Film Struck, which gives us access to hundreds of films, foreign and classic Hollywood. This was the first film we watched. (Well, we watched PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK first but we had already seen that one)
Le Chat is based on a Georges Simenon novel and stars Jean Gabin and Simone Signoret. It is the story of a toxic marriage playing out in an apartment that has been condemned. We watch the machinery taking down everything around the unhappy couple's home and wonder if they can outrun it and themselves. A sad movie, but well, such is Simenon.

Such a choice on Film Struck. It costs about the same as HBO but there is no comparison in the choices of films.

Monday, May 28, 2018


We enjoyed listening to Kevin play his guitar at Freddy's on Saturday. The kids seem to have a fun time playing. It is mostly heavy metal sort of music but they usually do one or two from our sort of music.

Enjoying STEALING THE SHOW by Joy Press, about female-led shows (MURPHY BROWN, ROSEANNE, etc). This refers to the show-runner more than the star. Also reading THAT KIND OF MOTHER by Rumaan Alam. Maybe Philip Roth had trouble with creating real female characters, but Rumaan does not.
It got hot here. Skipped right over spring as usual. The flowering trees are coming to an end. May is the most gorgeous month here. No contest.
Admired more than liked THE RIDER. Too much about breaking in horses and rodeos for me.

What about you?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, May 25, 2018

(from the archives) le0pard13 is the internet moniker of a father of two, spouse to one, who blogs out of The City of the Angels. He owns a first edition copy of the book below and one day hopes to have the author autograph for him.

The Ninth Configuration, by William Peter Blatty (Harper & Row 1978)

Just say the name, William Peter Blatty. It does have its own sense of meter as it rolls off the tongue, now doesn't it? You'll most likely recognize it, too. Just the same, saying it three times in front of a mirror won’t cause anything bad to happen, either -- contrary to urban legend. If you love books and reading, whether you are a baby boomer or Generation X, Y, or even Z, odds-on you've heard of him. Such is the legacy of authoring a horror novel as famous as 1971's The Exorcist (which would go on to even greater notoriety when it was adapted to the screen in 1973's film of the novel). However, along with the popularity and fame for a book that became an all-encompassing event, it can be too much of good thing. 'Event' novels can take on a life of their own, and they can build to the point that all other work by the same author lies in its shadow. Obscured because they are not anything like that book. Such was the consequence for the next novel by author Blatty that it seemed to fall by the wayside when it was published in 1978. That forgotten, but wonderful, piece of elegant writing was, The Ninth Configuration.
What was released that year actually germinated from a hasty 1966 novel titled, Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane! From his author's note: "Its basic concept was surely the best I have ever created, but what was published was just as surely no more than the notes for a novel -- some sketches, unformed, unfinished, lacking even a plot." Luckily, for those of us who read the re-envisioned work in the late 70's (and those who would go on to discover and appreciate it decades later), it is an overlooked book worth remembering. Ironically, WPB has said more than once he considers it his unofficial sequel to The Exorcist. Although The Ninth Configuration shares a very loose connection (via an unnamed character) from that novel, the genre and plot line couldn't be more divergent. Plus, it works whether or not you've read the legendary blockbuster that preceded it.
The novel's story centers upon a select small group of military men secluded away with what are believed to be inexplicable mental disorders. Or, being highly intelligent men, they could be faking it--which could be the reason nothing has worked and why they continue their stay at a decaying Gothic mansion. Their treatment, and sanity, ultimately hinges upon one Marine Colonel Kane (a psychiatrist who may have his own issues) brought to the sheltered facility to seek the answers in the most unexpected of ways. Blatty crafts the story as a mystery to be solved, planting its seeds in the unusual interactions that take place. The author’s dialogue between the patients and staff are quite purpose-built, madcap, and unexpected. I cannot describe it any better than what a good friend wrote in a review of his, "Because the story is relatively brief, no words are wasted in an attempt to be lyrical or poetic. Yet somehow there are moments of utter poetry in the exchanges between doctor and patients, and in Kane's own introspective reasonings." While the material covered is meaty, it is one of the few novels that made be laugh out loud, and had my eyes welling by the time I finished it.
One could describe WPB as an author who writes eloquent, thought provoking fiction that draws in his readers with clever, humorous dialogue (keep in mind, he also wrote the screenplay for the comedy, A Shot In The Dark). Or put another way, he’s a humorous, clever writer who puts out eloquent novels that catch the readers off guard by being thought provoking. I'd say both are true. He just happened to author a chart topping novel of horror that eclipsed everything before, or since, in his bibliography. However, The Ninth Configuration remains perhaps a more intriguing read, and worth exploration by those who haven't experienced it. As well, for those of us who are film buffs, sprinkled throughout, the author references classic movie moments and dialogue within this novel. A few years after its publication, William Peter Blatty would pen and direct its film adaptation in 1980. Not surprisingly, it has developed a strong cult following, and many believe the story is more immersive on the screen (consider me in both groups). The 1978 novel is a svelte 135-page work, and next year TNC will be re-released by Centipede Press as a new edition. Purportedly, it will combine both novels and will include a long essay by film scholar Mark Kermode in a 292-page hardcover. So on this Friday, The Ninth Configuration is not forgotten (at least, by me anyways).

Yvette Banek, THE HENCHMEN OF ZENDA, K J Charles
Les Blatt, FIRE IN THE THATCH, E.C.R. Lorac 
Elgin Bleecker, THE MEN FROM THE BOYS, Ed Lacy 
Brian Busby, MY LADY GREENSLEEVES, Constance Beresford -Howe
Curt Evans, SWING, SWING TOGETHER, Peter Lovesey
Richard Horton,The Chauffeur and the Chaperon, by C. N. and A. M. Williamson 
Nick Jones, Larry Niven's A World Out of Time, Greg Bear's Anvil of Stars, Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, et al.

George Kelley, WAYWARD GIRL/THE WIDOW, Orrie Hitt
Margot Kinberg, A RISING MAN, Abir Mukerjee
Rob Kitchin, THE KEPT WOMAN, Karen Slaughter 
B.V.. Lawson, THIS ROUGH MAGIC, Mary Stewart
Evan Lewis,  BILL CRIDER'S Intro to The Body Looks Familiar / The Late Mrs.Five by Richard Wormser
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, CROOKED MAN, Tony Dunbar 
Todd Mason,  FFM: STREET & SMITH'S DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, September 1946, edited by Daisy Bacon; ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, September 1945, edited by Frederic Dannay; NEW WORLD WRITING 16: Tillie Olsen, Thomas Pynchon, Anne Sexton, Kingsley Amis, et alia...edited by Stewart Richardson and Corlies M. Smith 
Matt Paust, A TRAITOR'S PURSE, Margery Allingham 
James Reasoner, WAYWARD GIRL, Orrie Hitt 
Richard Robinson, WHAT I READ, Part 5 
Gerard Saylor, MONTANA HITCH, Richard Wheeler
Kerrie Smith, THE SANS PAREIL MYSTERY, Karen Charlton 
Kevin Tipple, A LITTLE DARLING, DEAD, Jack S. Scott 
TomCat, THE MISADVENTURES OF ELLERY QUEEN, ed. Josh Pachter and Dale Andrews
Tracy K, Patricia Wentworth

Monday, May 21, 2018


Megan came out for two days. It was nice to have her around although for too short a time. We saw a rather bad movie, she installed Roku for us so we could get Filmstruck on our TV, we celebrated Josh and Julie's 23rd anniversary, went out for three good restaurant meals and ate Arab food at home. We found a terrific new takeout place in a gas station. Am still hunting for a book to read.

Megan will shoot the pilot for DARE ME in August / Sept. Her new book GIVE ME YOUR HAND has been purchased by AMC and YOU WILL KNOW ME by Marti Noxon so lots of excitement for Megan.

Finished watching SAFE on Netflix and found it disappointing. Hate it when too much comes out at the end. Although I thought there was some nice moments and good acting.

Is there anything prettier than a redbud in bloom?

So what are you up to?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, May 18, 2018

 THE LAST GOOD KISS, James Crumley 

Crumley’s detective hero/antihero is C.W. Sughrue,is  a war veteran who handles low-level P.I. jobs like spying on wayward spouses for divorce cases or locating deadbeats for bill collectors. While tracking down a troublesome author named Trahearne for the man’s ex-wife, Sughrue takes on a second job locating a missing daughter.
Tracking down Betty Sue is the main plot point that drives the novel forward, but it’s Trahearne, that makes the novel fun to read. When the two men strike up an odd friendship and Sughrue’s hired to find Betty Sue, Trahearne cajoles Sughrue into letting him tag along.
Sughrue often takes a backseat to both Traherne and to the beer-swilling bulldog Fireball.
The real star of the book, however, is the prose, the setting, the atmosphere. Lots of fun.

Brian Busby, GANG OF FOUR
Martin Edwards, MYSTERY AT OLYMPIA, John Rhode
Richard Horton, The Stars are Ours!, by Andre Norton/Three Faces of Time, by Sam Merwin, Jr.
Jerry House, NOT THIS AUGUST, C.M. Kornbluth
George Kelley,  THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES: 1951 Edited By E. F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
Margot Kinberg, SILENT SCREAM, Angela Marson
Rob Kitchin, PARIS, TROUT, Pete Dexter
B.V.  Lawson, THE DEATH OF A CELEBRITY, Hulbert Footner
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, THE SPOOK HILLS MYSTERY, B.M. Bower 
Todd Mason,  FANTASTIC STORIES, August 1976, edited by Ted White; THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, August and September 1976, edited by Edward Ferman 
Matt Paust, A FAR, FAR BETTER THING, Jens Soering and Ted Sizemore
Richard Robinson, What I Read, Part 4
Gerard Saylor, SPECIAL FORCES BERLIN, James Stejskal
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THIEVES'S DOZEN, Donald E. Westlake
TomCat, DEAD MAN TWICE, Christopher Bush
TracyK, GOLDFINGER, Ian Fleming

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Deborah Kerr and Robert Donat play two naive people who marry without much in common. The war breaks out and both of them enlist. (She in the Waves). Their wartime service changes them into more independent people and also adults. When the war ends, both are convinced their marriage is over based on what they know about their partner.

Alexander Korda directed this in 1945. It is also called PERFECT STRANGERS. It was quite a decent little film and treated a serious subject in a respectful way. It is the kind of movie you might like if you stumble on it, but perhaps not the sort you would rent on Amazon.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mondays Are Murder

Things That Are Making Me Happy

RBG, the biopic of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, which was more like a fan letter than any sort of critical study, but so what. Maybe she deserves it when you go through her accomplishments. She is certainly a role model for many young women. And managed to have a loving marriage too.

Enjoying THE LAST GOOD KISS by James Crumley and MAD MEN CAROUSEL by Matt Zoller Seitz as I rewatch seven seasons of MAD MEN. Yes, it holds up very well. And it seems even more relevant today than three years ago.

Sorry the series ATLANTA is over for the year. Each episode was special, different, sad. Donald Glover is a genius.

Finished my story for the Lawrence Block antho. Hope he likes it. And thanks to Jeff for reading it for me.

Incessant rain makes for green grass. But it also makes for incessant rain.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, May 11, 2018

I am a big Larry Watson fan and LET HIM GO did not disappoint. It was 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.  

Mark Baker, FATAL FISHES, Sandy Dengler
Yvette Banek, PLOT IT YOURSELF, Rex Stout
Brian Busby, S, PORTRAIT OF A SPY, Ian Adams
Martin Edwards, THE SALTMARSH MURDERS, Gladys Mitchell 
Curt Evans, CUT THROAT, Christopher Bush
Richard Horton, A VIRTUOUS WOMAN, Kaye Gibbons 
Jerry House, THE HOUSE ON THE MOUND, August Derleth
George Kelley,, THE HUMAN EDGE, Gordon R, Dickson
Margot Kinberg, SMITH's FORTY ACRES, Dwayne Alexander
B.V. Lawson, UNCLE ABNER, MASTER OF MYSTERIES, Melville Davisson Post
Evan Lewis, THE COWBOY HANDBOOK, Bruce Dillman
Steve Lewis, Barry Gardner, UNDUE INFLUENCE, Steve Martini

Todd Mason, Humor Magazines and Anthologies
Matt Paust, HIDE MY EYES, Marjorie Allingham 
James Reasoner, THE PYTHON PIT, George F. Worts 
Richard Robinson, WHAT I READ
Gerard Saylor, THE SECOND LIFE OF NICK MASON, Steve Hamilton 
Kevin Tipple, DYING VOICES, Bill Crider
TracyK, THE WHIPHAND, Rex Carver 
TomCat, THE INUGAMI CLAN, Seishi Yokomizo 
Westlake Review, Peter Rabe
Zybahn, Stephen King, The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Andy Grifffith SHow

Do you know Andy never received an Emmy although Don Knott was well rewarded? That is indicative of voters not understanding the real heart of the show. This is my favorite episode.
What is yours?

Monday, May 07, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Happy that my son stopped over for a surprise dinner the other night. And also happy he takes such pleasure in helping coach Kevin's team. I am sure he enjoys it as much if not more than Kevin. We got to a game this week and was amazed at how well these kids play.

It was a week of cancelled appointments due to power outages, which makes me tense. But hopefully this week will take care of some of them.

I think I have a satisfactory conclusion to the story I have been working on. It's the longest short story I have written in years at almost 7000 words. I managed to find a small crime of sorts to anchor it but some stories just don't lend themselves to a major crime.

It is hard to explain the writing process if you don't write. But somehow I ended up writing a story about a minister and his wife. It just happens sometimes. These characters get into your head and you have to follow their path.

Enjoyed my Thursday ladies. We mostly talk about politics and health issues. Or where the best place to buy various items. Nothing profound but very therapeutic. We only talk for an hour.

Haven't been able to land on a good book lately. The Rendell one spoiled me for the next four I have tried. And I do not like this trend of opening a book with the introduction of a dozen characters coming to a house for a holiday or some other purpose. I like my characters introduced in small measures.

We saw TULLY, which was a puzzlement to me. And the sound quality was either bad or I am growing more deaf. Also more and more movies seem to be very dark. Literally. Maybe I am also going blind. But we saw it with friends so enjoyed the camaraderie. Nice to have friends that enjoy so many of the same things: books, movies, baseball, politics, TV, restaurants.

What about you?

Friday, May 04, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, May 4, 2018


This was the first Sam McCain book I read and what a pleasure it was. All of Ed Gorman's novels are a treat to read. You enter a world that is mostly filled with benevolent, well-drawn non-stereotypical characters.
And then Ed throws in the monkey wrenches that set that peaceful Iowa world on its ear. There is murder and mayhem but you are never offended. We have a gentleman here.
And then he sets things right in a humane and compelling way.

Especially fun for me were the sixties touchstones-and I really admired the way he caught it on the cusp of a new era-and captured it without overplaying its markers. Sam McCain feels young, vibrant and on the edge of adulthood himself.

What I liked most about Ed's books is his obvious admiration and enjoyment of women. This is unusual in the books I read. His women are rarely shrews or nags or harpies. All of them seem like a romance or an adventure is just within their grasp--young and old.

My very favorite Gorman book is SLEEPING DOGS, but this is right up there. They all are.

Mark Baker, A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT, Michael Connelly
Yvette Banek, CARDS ON THE TABLE, Agatha Christie
CrossExaminingCrime, MURDER ISN'T EASY, Richard Hull
Martin Edwards, PRINTER'S DEVIL, Clemence Dana and Helen Simpson
Bev Hankins, TERROR IN TOWN  Edward Ronns
Richard Horton, BORN LEADER, J.T. McIntosh
George Kelley, The Dark Angel: The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin, Volume Three By Seabury Quinn
Margot Kinberg, FINDING NOUF, Zoe Ferraris
Steve Lewis, COLD CLEWS, Erle Stanley Gardner
Todd Mason, SCRIBNERS MAGAZINE, Winter 89
John F. Norris, ALIAS BASIL WILLING, Helen McCloy
Matt Paust, THIRTY-NINE STEPS, John Buchan
James Reasoner, HELL IN PARADISE VALLEY, Barry Cord
Richard Robinson, What I Read, Part 2
Gerard Saylor, MURDER NEVER KNOWS, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Kevin Tipple, EMPTY EVER AFTER, Reed Farrel Coleman
TomCat, MR. MONK IS MISERABLE, Lee Goldbert

Thursday, May 03, 2018

First Wednesday (on Thursday) Book Club: THE CHIMNEY SWEEPER's BOY, Ruth Rendell

Barbara Vine in this case.

Gerald Candless is a famous British writer who dies suddenly much to the sorrow of his daughters and puzzlement of his wife. Their marriage has always been odd to say the least. She has functioned more as a typist and sometimes muse than a wife. However the girls adore him and the oldest decides to write a biography about him.

This proves to be a difficult task as there are many blind alleys in his life. Is he even Gerald Candless?

And the reader is left with mysteries of her own at the book's end. Why did a man so mistreated by society mistreat his wife. Why did he undermine his daughter's relationship with their mother. Yes, we feel sorry for Gerald, but we also loathe many things about him.

This is a complex, complicated book, which I could not put down. Rendell does a wonderful job of showing what life was like in various time periods. Not one character is a cliche. Truly a terrific book. And she integrates his writing wonderfully into both his life and that of his wife's.

More reviews on Thursday at Barrie Summy's place. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2018


A very strange little film that was too violent for our tastes. A hitman that uses a hammer as a weapon? Phoenix does a decent job of making this guy somewhat sympathetic. He has been the victim of violence as a child and violence as a soldier. And he is tender toward his mother and toward a young girl he rescues. There are some amazing scenes but all in all, it was just too bleak for the bleak world we live in. Phoenix does himself no favors by the scripts he chooses to make. And the mumbling does get old.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Yesterday was as cold as February. But it looks like it will warm up considerably this week.

I managed to make myself drive around my neighborhood three times this week. That did make me happy. Although I don't feel at all comfortable yet.

Got a fair amount of writing in although my story for the anthology seems more historical than crime. I guess choosing a painting that was done in the 19th century forced me into that direction.

I have enjoyed this season of Bosch although there are too many scenes with the cops sitting around discussing the case. I know this probably is what cops do but it feels static. Still a darn good show.

Really enjoying the Barbara Vine book. Boy, can she tell a story. (Ruth Rendell).

What about you?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, April 27, 2018

THE PLASTIC NIGHTMARE, Richard Neely (Ed Gorman from the archives)

I've written before about Richard Neely. He wrote non-series crime novels that pretty much covered the entire range of dark suspense. I mentioned that in the best of them the weapon of choice is not poison, bullets or garrote. He always preferred sexual betrayal.

Plastic is a good example. Using amnesia as the central device Dan Mariotte must reconstruct his life. Learning that the beautiful woman at his bedside all these months in the hospital--his wife--may have tried to kill him in a car accident is only the first of many surprises shared by Mariotte and the reader alike.

What gives the novel grit is Neely's take on the privileged class. He frequently wrote about very successful men (he was a very successful adverts man himself) and their women. The time was the Seventies. Private clubs, private planes, private lives. But for all the sparkle of their lives there was in Neely's people a despair that could only be assuaged (briefly) by sex. Preferably illicit sex. Betrayal sex. Men betrayed women and women betrayed men. It was Jackie Collins only for real.

Plastic is a snapshot of a certain period, the Seventies when the Fortune 500 dudes wore sideburns and faux hippie clothes and flashed the peace sign almost as often as they flashed their American Express Gold cards. Johnny Carson hipsters. The counter culture co-opted by the pigs.

The end is a stunner, which is why I can say little about the plot. Neely knew what he was doing and I'm glad
to see his book back in print. Watching Nerely work is always a pleasure.

Yvette Banek, THE ISLAND OF SHEEP, John Buchan
Brian Busby, THE LANE THAT HAD NO TURNING, Gilbert Parker
Cross Examining Crime, DEATH WATCH, John Dickson Carr
Martin Edwards, DEATH IN FIVE BOXES, John Dickson Carr
Richard Horton,  Siege of the Unseen, by A. E. Van Vogt/The World Swappers, by John Brunner
Jerry House, FUTURES TOWARD INFINITY, Sam Moskowitz
George Kelley, Collected Millar
Margot Kinberg, THE RULES OF BACKYARD CRICKET, Jock Serong
Rob Kitchin, DARK TOWN, Thomas Mullen
B.V. Lawson, THE ARCHER FILES, Ross Macdonald
Evan Lewis, AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT, John K, Butler
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, FALSE CONCEPTION, Stephen Greenleaf
Todd Mason, SILO, edited by Lynne Coleman and Stephanie Spinner
J.F. Norris, THE EVIL WISH, Jean Potts
Steve Nester (THE RAP SHEET) Homebody, Seth Morgan
James Reasoner, THE YELLOW SCOURGE, Curtis Steele
Richard Robinson, "What I Read, Part One"
Gerard Saylor, SKIN, Mo Hayder
TomCat,  Nocturne of Remembrance, Shichiri Nakayama