Monday, September 09, 2019

Friday, September 06, 2019


I had to do a little work to get myself a copy of Dan J. Marlowe's THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH (from the archives).  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? And I guess what "little" means is under 250 pages.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

WHAT THE EYES DON'T SEE, Mona Hanna Attisha

In 2014, virtually with no one looking or investigating the safeness of the switch, the state of Michigan shifted the source of Flint's water from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Almost immediately citizens complained about the color or the water, the taste, but they went unheard.

Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha took the officials at their word initially and told her pediatric patients' parents that the water was safe. But over a brief period of time, children were getting sicker and early studies began to trouble the doctor.

This book details her fight to obtain undeniable truth that the water was full of lead and to get city and state officials to admit it and do something about it. Time after time, people who should be on the side of the citizens, turned a deaf hear, preferring to either ignore or uphold the lies being bandied about.

This is a very disheartening book because you know similar problems exist in other cities (Newark) and are especially prevalent in black areas. When this was first noticed in Flint, GM and state offices received water that was not from the Flint River. So even here distinctions were made by state officials.

The dire nature of the story is somewhat lightened by Attisha's story of her own family and their trip to the US from Iraq. They are a family of activists indeed.

For more book reviews, go to Barrie Summy's blog. 

Monday, September 02, 2019

Things That are Making Me Happy

Happy Labor Day!

Enjoying HUNTING GAME by Helene Tursten. I am always amazed when a writer is able to present a milieu as successfully as she does with a hunting lodge and hunting itself in Sweden. Of course, maybe it is her scene. Will have to try her other series.

I am sad to be finished MINDHUNTER, where I liked the personal stories as much as the Atlanta Child Killer plot. Although it was pretty brilliant all around. Also enjoying TRAPPED on Prime. Thanks, Jeff.  Still enjoying SUCCESSION on HBO.

Had a nice family dinner Friday night. Kevin is getting taller by the minute. He is going to play hockey, soccer, cross-country and tennis this fall. As well as begin to learn the bass guitar along with the one he's been playing for years. The music teacher says most guitar players can play more than one thing. Today's parents, at least ones that can afford it because no school sports are free nowadays) are so busy getting their kids to various events.

What about you?

Friday, August 30, 2019

FFB: BLACKWATER, Kerstin Ekman

Blackwater, Kerstin Ekman

Long before the Scandinavian surge of crime fiction of today, a few Swedish writers caught my attention and one in the 1990s was Kerstin Ekman. In face, I think I came across this one the year we lived in England.

The plot centers on teacher and mother, Annie Raft, and is set in the 70s, and focuses on events surrounding, and following a double murder at the Blackwater lake in Sweden.

The victims of the murder are two tourists visiting Northern Sweden to explore its forested wilderness. They are discovered by Annie Raft, herself new to the region, as she and her young daughter Mia scrabble through the forest, searching for the commune where her lover awaits and where they are to start life anew away from the turmoil of their lives in Southern Sweden.

Things also deteriorate in the commune. Paradise is not what it seems, nor is Annie's lover. It is years later when this story concludes.

Ekman explores the degradation occurring to the environment at the same time she sets up this plot. The darkness of the land mirrors the darkness of the people who inhabit it. She also examines the animosity between Swedes and Laplanders in the region. From reviews on amazon, I see that this book was too dark for many readers, but we both enjoyed it at the time.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Movies, movies, movies. And the best of them was TOY STORY 4. Truly. But I also liked REMEMBER MY NAME, which was a doc about David Crosby. I can't believe his voice is still great at 76. I also can't believe he has lost all of his friends.
Lovely weather in Michigan. But the mold is killing me from all the rain earlier in the summer.
Kevin was here Saturday night and between us we managed to lose the sound on the TV. I have a new cable box and remote and have not mastered it yet. We finally fixed it and proceeded to watch six episodes of THE OFFICE. I understand board games are undergoing a revival and I should pick up a few.
As always thanks to my friends for keeping me busy. If it was not for them....
Reading THE HOUSE OF BROKEN ANGELS by Urrea, about a Mexican family in San Diego. Pretty impressive.
Watching SUCCESSION, the funniest show about a horrible family. Great writing. Also MINDHUNTER, which is very good but very scary.  Have watched four episodes of ELEMENTARY, which is not bad but probably best watched one show a week.
What about you?

Friday, August 23, 2019


MY COUSIN RACHEL, Daphne DuMaurier

The story takes place in the 1840s in Cornwall. Philip's whole life centers around his Uncle Ambrose, his guardian, and their life in the country. When Ambrose begins to suffer health problems, he goes to Italy where he falls under the spell of Cousin Rachel. His letters home to Philip begin as odes of love but over time become dark. When he suddenly dies, Philip goes to Florence to ascertain the reasons for his death.

Initially suspicious of Cousin Rachel, Philip soon falls under her spell and alters his inheritance to make her the primary beneficiary of his uncle's estate. It is unclear for much of the book as he goes from complete suspicion, to devotion, to suspicion again whether he is falling ill from the same brain fever or disease that took his uncle or whether Rachel has a hand in both of their fates. (Much of her time is spent fooling with herbs and medicinal plants).
Is this a book about jealousy, disease or evil? I think you will come to your own conclusion by the end, but it may not be the same as mine.

This is a masterpiece of suspense. The type of book you will think about for many days following its ending.

Monday, August 19, 2019


A friend has invited me to share an apartment with her on Treasure Island (FL) for a few weeks in Feb-March, which is very nice and I am certainly considering doing that. Getting out of Michigan that time of year is great. We have spent a lot of time together in Traverse City so we know we are compatible. We are both movie-goers, concert lovers and readers and walkers. I have even got her reading Jussi Adler-Olsen after seeing a movie from his work in TC.

Saw LUCE and really admired it. So seldom a movie tries to confront as many issues as this one did. Naomi Watts is such a great actress. I am reminded of my favorite movie with her, THE PAINTED VEIL.

Started MINDHUNTER on Netflix and am not sure I am interested enough. It seems even more like a documentary this year. And sadly these serial killers don't differ much one from another.

Has anyone watched ELEMENTARY? Is it worth the seven seasons?

I have a great brother who is helping me decide what to do with a pretty large amount of money. I was ready to invest it but last week changed my mind.  There is no point putting money in the market just as it is about to go down. Jeff is about all the family I have from my generation. And now it turns out we are only half-siblings so even nicer of him to help me.

Having lots of allergy-sinus problems. Instead of being nasal it goes to my sinuses. And then I am dizzy and now that I am alone here, I have to be more careful that I don't fall and crack my head or hip on all the stone floors. The police here suggest you install a box outside your house with a house key and your medical cards in it. Has anyone done this?

Great weather here. The first half of the summer it rained but the last six weeks or so has been terrific. 

What are you guys up to?

Friday, August 16, 2019


Richard Wheeler passed away in February. Events caused me to first miss it and then neglect to post it on here. Richard would write to me every so often about music he loved and the books he thought I might like. None of them were crime novels.  He liked uplifting stories.
Here is his obit.  
What a great career he had!!  The Western Writers of America honored him with six Spur Awards, the 2001 Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement and a 2015 induction into its Hall of Fame.
And this bio of Max Perkins is one of my very favorite bios. 
Richard S. Wheeler was the author of more than eighty 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. He also has written numerous short stories.

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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Forgotten Movies: DON'T LOOK NOW

Eesh-that will wake you up.

Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie star in Nicholas Roeg's 1973 adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier's story. Venice has never looked less lovely, filmed almost entirely at night or on rainy days.

A couple loses a child in a drowning. Sometime later they go to Venice where the man is restoring a church. The woman meets two older women who seem to have psychic gifts and are in touch with the lost child.

The man, a non-believer in otherworldly information, is at risk again and again. A warning seems to come from the lost child.

This is a frightening movie from start to finish. Other than an extended sex scene, there are no happy minutes. Everyone seems vaguely threatening including the police, the priest, the hotel keeper, the two sisters. And yet only the final scene has any real violence in it. So cleverly done.

Monday, August 12, 2019


Enjoyed ONCE UPON A TIME...IN HOLLYWOOD although the final scene in retrospect is strange. Don't want to ruin it, but he evokes some sympathy for the Manson girls by ending it the way he does.
Did not think much of THE FAREWELL. It was a nice enough movie but it was threadbare beyond its basic concept. There was not enough plot. Plus Awkwafina's glum, one-note performance was annoying.And how little we learned about the characters beyond their dislike of giving or getting bad news.A wedding banquet scene lasted as long as most banquets and I was reminded of Ang Lee's THE WEDDING BANQUET, which was a wittier and far better movie.
Reading a book about the Flint water crisis for my book group. I don't think it is a good discussion book. It will just lead to all of us bemoaning the state of our government, which has only got worst in the last two years.
Thanks to my friends I have been able to get out of the house every day this week. As long as I keep moving, I survive. Thoughts of the coming winter are frightening.
What about you?

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books: A WIDOW'S STORY

This is the second time I have read this. The first time it was just because of its good reviews.
More than Joan Didion's book on her loss, JCO's book spoke to me. I think we were both married to men who excelled in taking care of us. Her loss was sudden; mine was long, but both had a lot in common otherwise. Living largely in the academic world, much of it was so familiar. And her early years were in Detroit, which resonated.

She struggled with insomnia, depression. She realized after Ray's death there was a lot of Ray hidden from her. I would agree with this. Do men keep more of their past to themselves than women. I am not sure.

JCO would  marry again within a year, but now her second husband has died. I can't help but wonder if the second time is easier for her. Has the first experience lessened or worsened the second?
And will she write about it? Of course.

Traverse City Film Festival 15

The festival continues to be better organized every year. You can park your car outside of town and take a shuttle (they run every 15 minutes) from venue to venue or restaurant to restaurant. The quality of the films continues to impress. And there are panels on most film-related topics if you need a break. Seven venues show films six times a day. There are hundreds of films, heavy on the docs but that seems to be what most of the movie goers like. Lily Tomlin was the special guest this year and lots of the directors and actors were there to introduce their films.

People come from all over the country, hungry to see movies but also to talk to like-minded people. I saw 15 films--not all were great but none were awful. My favorites were MOTHER'S INSTINCT (a Hitchcockian Belgian film), THE PURITY OF VENGEANCE (a film based on the Danish Jussi Adler-Olsen novel), C'EST LA VIE, ( a French film about a wedding planner), BALLOON, a German film about an escape from East Germany) and ROSIE, an Irish film about a homeless family. Two films I missed--one because Michael Moore talked so long at another venue it had already begun when I got there and the seats were gone. 

So clearly I go for the foreign films. We were lucky enough to be able to stay with friends or the cost would be exorbitant. The weather was great-mostly in the seventies although it was in the forties one night. Lots of good restaurants. A good time was had by all.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

I saw another production of OTHELLO which I enjoyed. A really terrific Iago even though some of the other parts were not as strong. I think I have seen this play second only to HAMLET in numbers.

I got my garage cleaned out in anticipation of a new wall installed on the back. It will be nice to not have snow, leaves and dirt and most of all animals getting in there. Yes, the wrought iron gate is pretty but no practical.

Reading JCO's book about the death of her first husband, Ray Smith. Her second husband died in April. I have read it before but now it speaks to me.

Getting ready for the trek to Traverse City. We are seeing 14 films in the next week. Hope we are up to it. I am going with my friend Charleen who is so kind to be the driver. 

Watching BLACK SPOT on Netflix. Only two episodes in but I like it so far.

Kevin is reading ERAGON. Looks like he enjoys fantasy novels. Any suggestions for a 12 year old. Oh, and his voice has changed. Startling.

What about you?

Friday, July 26, 2019



Jean Parker Shepherd Jr. (July 26, 1921 – October 16, 1999) was an American storyteller, radio and TV personality, writer and actor. He was often referred to by the nickname Shep.[1] With a career that spanned decades, Shepherd is known for the film A Christmas Story (1983), which he narrated and co-scripted, based on his own semi-autobiographical stories.[2]

Of course, the movie, A CHRISTMAS STORY and its yearly showings, far surpassed interest in the books but there are so many more charmers in the three or four books of his I have read. It is mostly about his childhood in rural Indiana and he told these stories first on his radio show, but  good humor, especially his, which was neither bawdy nor saccharine, is rare. To this day, any neighbor that turn troublesome to our family is thereafter known as the Bumpus'. He is very good at names: Ollie Hopnoodle, Ludlow Scut Farkus, Ludlow Kissell, Grover Dill, Wilbur Duckworth and on and on. When your name is funny, how can you not be. Highly recommended.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

My book group makes me happy. Between the seven of us we were able to suss out some stuff about EUPHORIA, which made me appreciate it more. People I know who don't belong to book groups always say 1) I don't want to read books other people choose 2) it just ends up being a social gathering 3) There is always someone who talks too much.

But my group always reads and mostly discusses the books. And they often choose books I would not read on my own. And being social for 30% of the two hours is fine with me On our own here in blogland (except for George who reads widely) we all tend to read the same kind of books--fiction. Especially since we all like genre fiction that narrows it more. My book group alternates fiction and non-fiction. Like next we are reading a book about the Flint Water Crisis. We read books written by men and women. So I think it works well. We are all Dems so we don't argue about politics. But we do discuss them.

Enjoyed somewhat THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE, but I think it went off the rails a bit the second half. The degree of violence wasn't necessary to my mind although Steve O. might think differently. Mixing humor and violence is hard to pull off. Especially extreme violence and deadpan humor.

I thought the second season of BIG LITTLE LIES was awful. Flat, ill-thought out, redundant. Sure the acting was good but when they are given little of substance to act on, ugh.

Still debating Bouchercon. I signed up for it and reserved at room somewhere but am not sure I want to wander around alone. Dallas seems like an awfully big city to do that in. I like panels but cannot do them all day. And finding people to have meals with was tough even with Phil along.Hopefully Megan will be able to go.

I am addicted to PROJECT RUNWAY. There is something soothing about it and most of the seasons are on Hulu. Other than that I am not finding much else to watch. I need shows that don't require much concentration. So too, books. Maybe I should sign up for Britbox. A lot of their shows seem simpler than series on Netflix and Amazon. Hope I get some focus back soon. Hope I get myself back soon. This mourning is a real roller coaster ride. Just when you think you're past the worst you realize there is a lot of worst ahead.

Friday, July 19, 2019

FFB, July 11, 2019

Looking for a baseball review I found this reviewfrom Al Tucher, way back in 2010. 


Over the weekend of November 13-14 I attended the Crimebake conference in Dedham, Mass. On Saturday a gentleman about my age joined my breakfast table. I read his nametag and blurted, "Mr. Carkeet. I'm a big fan of The Greatest Slump of All Time."
David Carkeet's comic novel, which came out in 1984, supports my belief that baseball is life, only more so. It's the story of a major league team, each member of which suffers from a secret depression. That would be bad enough, but the team is also on a winning streak, The wrose the players feel, the more they win, and the more they win, the more like worthless frauds they feel. An excerpt says it better than I can:
"Bubba fears someone is going to break into his apartment on a dark night while he is in bed. The intruder will of course steal from him, but he will also abuse him with words. Bubba feels that the man will have every right to do this."
The scene in which the teammates break through their manly silence and share their pain is hilarious, but I won't spoil it here.
David Carkeet also wrote at least two crime novels in which a researcher in linguistics solves the mystery, and he has a new book set in Vermont called From Away. I plan to get hold of it.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Saw WILD ROSE, which I liked less than I expected. It was like a documentary except it wasn't. Plus that Glascow accent was so difficult. A very nice week here although we could use some rain.

I have been watching PROJECT RUNAWAY. It is very soothing because Phil and I never watched it together so I have no memories of that. Any show we both enjoyed is hard to watch. But I am doing okay. Still running around with friends too much. At some point, I am going to have to learn how to stay home and face it.

Trying to finish EUPHORIA for my book group. Next book is on Flint Water Crisis. Dread that one.
Going to read CONVICTION (Mina) first though.
Three times in the last few days the name Michael Bennet has come up. What do we think of him at the Democratic nominee? Have to get the media to take notice because that is key. Although I think there are some fine candidates here I don't have much faith in them beating Trump. He's got too many cards up his sleeve.

What have you been up to?

Friday, July 12, 2019


Sandra Seaman’s Forgotten Book from 2008


To be perfectly honest, I've never written a book review. For me books have always been a personal journey, something I've kept to myself, so I hope you'll bear with me as I tell you a little about the book I chose.
The book is "The Quiet Game" by Greg Iles. I'd been dipping into the work of several Southern writers when I stumbled across The Quiet Game. Published in 1999, the book centers around a thirty year old mystery.
Penn Cage is a lawyer who, with his daughter, returns to his parent's home in Natchez, Mississippi so the two of them can heal after the death of his wife. He gets prodded into investigating the unsolved murder of a black man in 1968. A murder that neither the black nor white community wants re-opened. Everyone is guarding their secrets, playing the quiet game.
Iles lays bare the undercurrents of a small southern town from the racial to the political. His wonderful writing weaves the secrets of the past into the secret lives of the present, exploring the effects of choices on people, their families and the community.
My poor summary doesn't do justice to the many layers that Mr. Iles has written into this book. His words make you sit up and think, chew your fingernails when things go terribly wrong, and smile when you realize that under all the conspiracy and mayhem the story is about justice in its truest sense.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Mikey and Nicky, written and directed by Elaine May

I never saw this film before and I always assumed it was written and directed by Cassavetes. But no, it is Elaine May and in interviews the actors acknowledge that she wrote every word, none of it was invented by the actors on the spot. That is both a testament to Falk and Cassavetes' great acting and May's great writing. Filmed in Philly where she grew up, May claims to have mob people in her family that gave her both the plot idea and the language used.
Nicky (Cassavetes) calls Mikey (Falk) to rescue him—this time a contract on his life for money he stole from his mob boss—Mikey shows up to help.  Mikey gets him out of the hotel where he has holed up, and starts to help him plan his escape, but Nicky keeps changing the plan, and a hit man is hot on their trail. Betrayal and friendship take center stage. 
This is a violent film. Yet all the violence arises from the plot and the characters. The slick streets emphasize the hazardous nature of the night. The treatment of women is both horrendous and believable to the times and the men. Ned Beatty is very good too. Highly recommended although not for a nice night out.

What is your favorite film about the mob (THE GODFATHER I and 2 excluded)

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

In memory of....from Phil's memorial service

 Forgive me for posting a few of Phil's books and this speech, but I wanted to share with you some details of Phil's career. You probably know him as my husband more than someone like this....This is from Dan Geller, the chairman of Phil's department the last decade of Phil's career.

                          In Memoriam: Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, Philip Abbott

Patti asked that I speak to Phil’s accomplishments as a scholar, and I consider it a privilege to do so.

My first meeting with Phil was on the initial evening of my interview for the Chair’s position at Wayne State Political Science in 2004. Although we both received our doctorates from Rutgers University, Phil was ahead of me in the program and I knew him only by his reputation among the graduate students. For my interview at WSU, the Dean of Arts and Sciences invited Phil to the dinner with us at the top of the Renaissance Center, and the reason was clear: to introduce me to the most accomplished faculty member in the department. I joined Wayne State as Chair of the Department of Political Science that August, and one of the principal reasons for my decision was the opportunity to work with a scholar of the stature of Philip Abbott.

Permit me to describe just a portion of the exceptional research under Phil’s name. Professor Abbott is the author of fourteen books and three edited volumes. These works are among the most important in the fields of Political Theory and the American Presidency. His book Political Thought in America is the leading text on American political theory. Professor Abbott’s prodigious scholarly record also includes the authorship of roughly ten chapters in edited collections. He published over thirty-five sole-authored articles in such prestigious journals as Perspectives on Politics, Polity, the Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Political Theory, and Presidential Studies Quarterly. This immense body of exceptional work established Philip Abbott as one of the leading scholars in the discipline of political science.

Phil received his Ph.D. from Rutgers in 1971, began his work as an Assistant Professor at Wayne State in 1970 and was promoted to Full Professor in 1980. Long recognized as one of the nation’s foremost political theorists, Phil had a profound appreciation for the relevance of his subject matter to contemporary life and its value in illuminating real world ethical dilemmas. His works exhibited uncommon sensitivity to such issues, setting him apart from others working in the field of political theory. In the 1990s Professor Abbott began to receive national recognition for his research in an additional field -- the American presidency. It was in this area of specialization that Phil’s reputation achieved even greater heights. Five of his last eight critically acclaimed books analyzed the office and role of the presidency, strong and weak presidents, untimely presidential successions, and a masterwork on Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In keeping with Philip Abbott’s extraordinary record of scholarship, he was the recipient of prestigious external awards, including his appointment by the American Fulbright Association as the Thomas Jefferson Professor of American Political Institutions at the University of Amsterdam. Professor Abbott was also the recipient of every major internal award for scholarship that Wayne State University confers. He was the first member of the faculty of the Department of Political Science – and one of the few faculty members in Liberal Arts – to be inducted into the Academy of Scholars. He was the recipient of two Board of Governors’ Faculty Recognition Awards, one for his book Furious Fancies: American Political Thought in the Post-Liberal Era , and a second for his two books, Seeking Many Inventions: The Idea of Community in America and States of Perfect Freedom: Autobiography and American Political Thought. Among Philip Abbott’s other awards were a Gershenson Distinguished Faculty Fellowship, a Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award, and the Michigan Association of Governing Boards of Higher Education Award. In recognition of his stellar accomplishments as a scholar, Dr. Abbott was named Distinguished University Professor in 2005 – the highest academic honor the University can bestow.

Philip Abbott’s remarkable record extended as well to his teaching and service. He directed over ten doctoral dissertations and over twenty-five Master’s theses. Professor Abbott taught a large number of undergraduate and graduate courses including the required doctoral seminar in Philosophic Problems of Social and Political Inquiry. In recognition of the superb quality of his teaching, Dr. Abbott received both the University’s Graduate Mentor Award and the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Lastly, Phil Abbott made huge contributions to the governance of the Department, the College, and the University as a whole. He served as an elected member of the Department’s Policy and Personnel Committee and as its Chair for nearly twenty years. Professor Abbott held the role of Assistant Dean and Graduate Officer of the College of Liberal Arts for three years, served one or more terms on over half a dozen College Committees, and in 2001 was named President of the Liberal Arts Faculty Council. Dr. Abbott was an elected member of the Academic Senate for over a decade, and he chaired the Policy Committee of that body over a period of multiple years. In Toto, his service to the University included membership on over thirty different standing or ad hoc units and committees.

It is difficult to grasp how one man could have accomplished so much, in so many areas, in such a brief time.

In closing, I wish to note that Philip Abbott’s monumental reputation as a scholar and the status he conferred on the Department of Political Science, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Wayne State University is without equal. With his passing, the University and the discipline have lost a great scholar, the Department has lost its leader, Patti, Megan, Josh and Kevin have lost a husband, father, and grandfather -- and I have lost a friend. But, for the sake of us all, his magnificent works live on.

Daniel Geller
Department of Political Science

Monday, July 08, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Three good movies this week. Steve O and I saw ECHO IN THE CANYON, which looked at the music coming out of California in the mid-sixties. It was narrated and mostly sung by Jakob Dylan, a handsome lad who doesn't quite have the rock voice or charisma to be completely successful in this role, but some nice music and good observations about that time. I really enjoyed Spiderman, great combo of teen- age antics and a clever plot. And PAVAROTTI was nicely done by Ron Howard.

Reading BIG SKY by Kate Atkinson;. She is such a great writer.

Lost my power on the 3-4th of July but that allowed me to spend some time with my son and grandson and DIL. Not a bad week.

Go find the person you are married to (if you are) and tell them right now how much they have enhanced your life, how much they mean to you. Every day I am reminded of how we didn't say that enough to each other. We felt it was implied but implied is not enough. You will really regret it if this isn't something that was part of your everyday conversation, the fabric of your life. All of you are old enough that time isn't infinite for you anymore.  

And I am telling you, how much you all have meant to me over the last decade or so. You are here every day and that counts for so much.

What are you up to this week?

Friday, July 05, 2019


Andi Shechter has been a publicist, chat host, interviewer, convention-planner, essayist and reviewer. She lives in Seattle with far too many books.

NO HUMAN INVOLVED, Barbara Seranella (reviewed by Andi Shechter)

The other day, in a fit of rereading (I get this way after trying two or three new books and finding them wanting) I picked up DEADMAN'S SWITCH by Barbara Seranella. This is a book I've read at least three times and will, undoubtedly read again. It was the last book Barbara wrote and I got annoyed thinking about that. It was the first book in a new series that featured a fascinating and terrific new protagonist, a woman with an interesting job in crisis management and an interesting life. Charlotte Lyon has obsessive compulsive disorder , an at times seriously disabling condition and Seranella it brilliantly – she was the "un-Monk" to me. (I know people with OCD and cannot watch the overbearing neurotic "Monk" who simply refuses to deal with his illness but instead expects the world to deal around him. Rrrrr.)

Sorry, off track. But see, the thing is that Barbara Seranella died in January of 2007 and that really frosts me. I'm still mad. I wasn't ready to lose a friend and to lose the person who created Munch Mancini, one of mystery's best protagonists. Her first book was NO HUMAN INVOLVED and it featured a character few of us had ever met. Munch was a junkie, an addict and was in trouble. In this first book, it's Munch's last day as an addict. She's going to get clean and sober. Throughout the history of the series, we watch her learn about all the life she missed while she was on drugs, all the hell she left behind and watch her try to get beyond it – something that's hard to do. She has debts she'll never pay, but she is learning to join society , as she puts it. Munch takes on responsibilities, sobers up without being preachy, faces the world pretty squarely and is just great to spend time with.

A couple years after I read NO HUMAN INVOLVED, I was hosting a discussion about hard-boiled mystery at a convention on a Sunday morning, It was a casual thing, a bunch of us sitting around in a circle and chatting. One of the participants in the conversation was so interesting, had so much to say and yeah, that was Barbara Seranella. I valued her friendship and the chance to catch up with her when she came to town on a book tour, and I miss her still. She had talent and used it. Her books are well crafted, and her protagonists unforgettable. This week, I'm reading my way through the Mancini series and being impressed all over again. I don't want her to be gone.

Monday, July 01, 2019


Went to a glass show, which was pretty darn incredible. Hundreds if not thousands of glass works from all over the world. Some of them sold for upwards of  $50,000 and none were under $5,000 so not in my price range for sure. Looking was enough and trying not to trip and fall on anything. 

Saw the filmed version of La Boheme from the Met. Astounding because the singer who played Mimi stood in the for a sick Mimi and had just sung Madame Butterfly the night before. We have two movie theaters that play operas, ballet, plays and music from various places. The closeups make up for it not being live.

Also saw The Last Black Man in San Francisco, which was sad, beautiful, original. Highly recommend. 

Echo Canyon is playing nearby. Wonder if Steve O. has seen it? Be more fun to see it with someone, but my friends are not rock fans.

Still working on getting things in order. Went to Secretary of State this week to put the car and registration in my name. But will I ever drive it? Don't know. It is quite a chore going on the site of every bill we get and changing the personal and billing information. Then going on my bank site and adding it there. Had to get a repairman to fix a noise in the furnace. Had to pull weeds for hours. Had to take my little cart to the grocery store and lug it home. Only a mile each way but the car is awkward. Have to look for better one.

But luckily I had glass shows and movies and books and opera and friends and tv to help out. 

What about you?

Friday, June 28, 2019


Lew Archer is hired by Alex Kincaid, to find his new wife, Dolly, who has suddenly disappeared. Archer takes the case when it is clear the police are uninterested and finds Dolly quickly, but, of course, complications arise. 

A man from her past has shown up at their hotel. This and the death of her college advisor, Helen Haggerty, has sent her into flight. She claims, in fact, that she's caused Helen’s death. Archer puts Dolly into a rest home with a man who has treated her in the past for similar incidents. Kincaid hangs around to keep an eye on her.

It seems that Dolly is linked to a number of mysterious deaths over a long period. The dean of the college Dolly attends also figures into the story at multiple points. He is dominated by his mother although puts up less of a fuss than you might expect.
This is very much a story about family relationships and how children can be manipulated by adults. The past has the present in a stranglehold in this book. Try as they might, the characters in THE CHILL are helpless but to follow a path they sometimes had no hand in making. Although many characters in THE CHILL only appear on the page for a minute or two, they are each given traits to be memorable. Archer himself is the least memorable and I think Macdonald planned it thusly. 

My favorite line, and one that sums up much of the plot, is "I'm beginning to hate old women."

Monday, June 24, 2019


Thing That Are Making Me Happy

It was sad going to Stratford for the first time without Phil, but it still beat sitting at home. BILLY ELLIOT was amazing. An eleven year old boy does every performance (six months, 3-4 times a week) and he was sensational as was the entire production. OTHELLO is always a problematic play for me because it is hard to believe Othello would be so easily persuaded his wife was cheating. Although they framed it well as both racism and sexism at work.
PRIVATE LIVES is amusing but I most see it now as a piece of theater history. Beautiful staging and sets in all three. If you live close enough to go to Stratford, you will be rewarded.

Also saw LATE SHOW this week, which was okay but not great. Kaling's humor never quite works for me. It is always so predictable. But Emma was terrific. Actually all the acting was good and I like the writer's room insights.

Reading a Michael Robotham book, which is terrific. He is one of my favorite writers these days.

Finished FOSSE AND VERDON, which was pretty great. (FX). 

Three sunny days. I think that is our record for this summer. 

What about you?

Monday, June 17, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Went to hear the first night of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Series where the Emerson String Quartet played three of Beethoven's string quartets. It was sublime. The festival goes on for two weeks and takes places in venues all over metro Detroit, many of them astoundingly gorgeous churches and synagogues. A few are in Windsor, Ontario and in Ann Arbor so it is truly a regional delight. I last heard the Emerson String Quartet perhaps thirty years ago and they have only gotten more sublime.

Watched FLEABAG again and I have to say the second season may be the best 180 minutes I have spent this year watching a performance. Heartbreaking, amusing, true.

Started a series called THE SOCIETY and it looks like the Christian right may have infiltrated Netflix. Not sure after only twenty minutes but the signs were there. 

Reading Kate Mulgrew's memoir. She is one smart cookie. For those who are unfamiliar with the name she was the sole female commander on a STAR TREK series, plays RED on OITNB and was Mary Ryan on Ryan's Hope in the seventies. Her writing is superb if a bit straining to be superb.

Hope you all had a happy father's day, fathers or not.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
Give Me Your Hand
Release date: Jul 02, 2019
A life-changing secret destroys an unlikely friendship in this "magnetic" (Meg Wolitzer) psychological thriller from the Edgar Award
Format: Print book
Giveaway ends in: 13 days and 17:06:39
Availability: 50 copies available, 4782 people requesting
Giveaway dates: Jun 15 - Jun 29, 2019
Countries available: U.S. 

Available on good reads

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Landscape with Fragmented Figures, Jeff Vande Zande (Bottom Dog Press, 2008)

It is hard to imagine this book taking place in a locale other than Michigan. If soldiers returning from war can be said to suffering post-traumatic stress disorders, many people in Michigan suffer similarly. Too many years of economic downturn takes a toll. An urban scholar doing a study of cities that have badly floundered, failed to find anyone with much optimism about the future of Detroit. (But now this has changed). This book captures that pessimism and angst.

Ray Casper is an artist, teaching at a small college in Bay City, Michigan. He's done some good work, is known as an inspirational teacher, has a nice relationship with his girlfriend, Diane. Suddenly, things begin to go awry. Diane, also an artist, leaves him. He loses his will to paint and desire to teach. He is unable to find solace with colleagues or friends. He is adrift even before his father dies, leaving many unresolved issues. His brother, a ne-er do well, Ray has never come to terms with, comes to live with him. Things continue their downward spiral as Ray comes to resemble his brother, Sammy, more and more.

This was a difficult book to read and yet I never put it down. Michigan is no longer hospitable to a diverse group of people: the blue-collar, Sammy; the artist, Ray; the student, Billy, who finds little support for finding a way to make a living or getting an education. The writing is fluid, the story poignant, but the book's most important strength is its clear-sighted and unabashed presentation of truth. That truth also examines the nature of art and the artist.

There are no heroes in this book. Just real people trying to find some joy in life, trying to find a reason to go on.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Sandra Seamans Day

And so it began:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Well, I'm Here

Okay, so I've finally surrendered to the world of blogs. Welcome to my little corner of the world, pull up a chair, get comfortable, and let's see if we can find something to talk about. 

And Sandra Seamans indeed found a lot of things to talk about. I doubt there was ever a blog that celebrated short story writing as well and a fully as MY LITTLE CORNER. Nor one that served a community as thoroughly and as selflessly as hers. She found her niche surprisingly quickly and although she claimed she mostly started a blog so she could participate in flash fiction challenges (remember those) it required hours of work for Sandra to pull up the information she did so willingly.
And it was also clear that she read many blogs herself and there were a lot of them back in 2008. 

If you go through the ten plus years of entries, you will see names come and go, zines come and go, contests come and go. And nobody was a bigger champion of other people's success than Sandra. Her "little Snoopy Dance" was always joyous. If someone wanted to a history of the online crime short story community over the last twenty years, her blog would be the place to start. A place to collect every contest, every call for submissions, the writers, the ups and downs of the business, and on and on.

In 2015, in the course of a week, Sandra lost her husband and mother and a lot of the joy went out of her. Although she came back to blogging, it was not about writing short stories so much as continuing her service to her fellow short story writers. How brave.

I only ever knew Sandra online but somehow it seemed like I knew her pretty well. She was candid on her blog. And we shared a year of reading short stories. Brian Lindenmuth suggested the challenge and initially there were quite a few participants, but by the end it was mostly Sandra, Brian and me.
Reading a short story every day doesn't seem like an onerous task but the mere chore of finding 365 stories you are willing to read was harder than we thought. Anyway, through her blog and through flash fiction challenges and through this assignment, I felt like I knew Sandra well.

Here are a few words from short story great, Art Taylor.

"In my writing courses at George Mason University and in any workshop I led elsewhere, I regularly devoted a section of my PowerPoint to resources for writers trying to market their short fiction. At the top of the first slide was My Little Corner, and I felt like I could never say enough about Sandra’s expertise on short story markets, her dedication to staying on top of market news, and her advocacy always on behalf of the authors, finding opportunities for us and warning us about venues to avoid. I never met Sandra in person, sadly, but she and I chatted sometimes, mostly in the comments section of My Little Corner. When she included something about me in her posts, she called me a “friend of the blog,” but in our own way in this age of online interactions, I felt like she and I were actual friends. I’m sorry I missed the chance to let her know how very much I appreciated her and her work." 

An interview from 2012 on DO SOME DAMAGE.
Some words from Paul Brazill 
Sandra on PULP CURRY 
Here are some words from Kate Laity
And from Sandra Ruttan 

Sandra's collection of stories COLD RIFTS is out of print, but it won't take much effort to find many of her stories online. A particular favorite of mine was one she wrote for a flash fiction challenge I ran a long time ago. The challenge was to write a story that uses the song  "SWEET DREAMS." Hers was clever and beautifully rendered. Google "Repeat Offenders" if you care to sample it. It's just a thousand words after all. Just a short story. But for Sandra and a few others, a good short story is the gold standard of writing.

Goodbye, Sandra. We will miss you.

Friday, June 07, 2019

FFB-CITY OF BONES, Michael Connelly

Is there anyone whose words on the page capture police life better than Connelly? He is as patient a writer as Bosch is a cop. CITY OF BONES opens with a dog finding bones of a child who probably died about 1980. The kid's death was the last of a long line of abuses he suffered.
Bosch patiently follows leads and false leads to a good conclusion. Lots of memorable scenes and characters but Bosch is the one our eyes follow. Highly recommend.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

First Wednesday Book Reviews

Jonathan Santlofer' THE WIDOWER'S NOTEBOOK tells the true story of the unexpected and somewhat mysterious death of his wife, Joy, after minor knee surgery. The day after her procedure, Jonathan is in the next room at home when he hears her cry out. He calls EMS immediately, but they are unable to save her. The book tells the story of their very happy marriage, and the months and then years following her death.

This book was very pertinent to me, of course. My situation shared some characteristics of his (long happy marriage) but was different in other aspects (suddenness v. long illness).  It was beautifully written and illustrated by Mr. Santlofer, who is a writer and an artist. He was able to capture his wife with words and a pen equally well. I found this book a particular comfort, but I think his journey is one many people would find worth reading about.

For other book reviews, check out Barrie Summy's blog.