Monday, March 25, 2019

Enjoyed CARELESS LOVE by Peter Robinson.
Enjoyed YOU on Netflix
Enjoyed GLORIA BELL at the movies. Julianna Moore was amazing.
Looks like we will have tulips soon.
Enjoyed SHRILL on Hulu.
Reading DEVASTATION ON THE DELAWARE: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955 
Loved CATASTROPHE on Prime. 
What about you?

Friday, March 22, 2019


Books I read in 1987.

I am sure I read almost all of the 87th precinct books. I liked the way they featured various cops, much the way Tana French does now. Although Steve Carella usually shines center stage.

When a man who wealthy Marilyn Hollis is dating is poisoned, Detective Steve Carella and his crew from the 87th Precinct are assigned to the case. She informs the detectives that the victim is only one of the men she dates.

The detectives can’t find anyone who might have wished him harm. Then a second man in Marilyn Hollis’s life ends up dead, as does a third. The detectives zero in on Ms. Hollis and the people in her life, looking for the villain.

Her charms don't go unnoticed and Detective Hal Willis moves in with her, even though she’s a suspect in an ongoing investigation. Willis insists that Marilyn is an innocent victim  and couldn’t possibly be guilty. Steve Carella is not so sure.

As always an enjoyable read.I can still remember waiting for the next book in this series to appear. Also the case with John D. MacDonald. Those were the days.

Whose books do you wait eagerly for?

Monday, March 18, 2019


 Haven't seen a copy myself. Perhaps it is all an illusion.

Things That Are Making Me Happy

SHRILL and PEN15 on HULU. THE OTHER TWO on COMEDY CENTRAL. Really enjoyed third season of CRASHING and sorry HBO cancelled it. Stopped watching BILLIONS. Just couldn't take the characters. Best line was when Richard Thomas told the lead that the only pleasure he would ever get from money was in giving it away. I agree with that. Same with Ray Donavan. They moved the show to NY but the characters are still going down the same path. Did they think tall buildings would make it better?

Watching a lot of TV as we are pretty housebound. Although I am lucky to have friends rescue me. A couple of meals out with them. Went to a book talk. Do miss movies but there have been few good ones of late.

Like the Podcast HIT PARADE. 

Megan is coming out in two weeks for two days. Yay!

Reading Peter Robinson's CARELESS LOVE. Real trouble in concentrating, sleeping, living. I never realized how much I depended on getting out. I am not a homebody.

So what are you up to?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Hit Parade

Music lovers. This is a terrific podcast (out of Slate) that looks at one song at a time and the culture and the time that made them hits. Chris Molanphy is so knowledgeable. Radio might have failed us but podcasts rock.

Friday, March 15, 2019


Books I read in 1987

L.R. Wright wrote perhaps seven books about a duo detecting team in Canada. After the publication of The Suspect (1985), her first mystery novel and winner of the 1986 Edgar Award for Best Novel, she concentrated almost exclusively on the genre after several earlier literary novels.

Anyhow in SLEEP, a body of a woman is found in the forest just off a road in British Columbia. Her throat has been slashed, her ID unknown, no discernible motive. 

An RCMP sergeant, Karl Alberg, is assigned to the case (and solves it eventually along with the village librarian). A Hollywood actor, an old flame, a grouchy old farmer, his lonely talkative wife, and an artist figure in the mix. Well-constructed and plotted plus engaging.Her style is spare and elegant. 
But probably read THE SUSPECT first.This one is very good but more conventional.

Thursday, March 14, 2019


Dorene O'Brien was a member of a writing group I belonged to a decade ago.  Dorene, hands down, was the best and most thorough critic. She taught creative writing at a college and had honed her skills over the years. Whereas the rest of us might write two paragraphs of criticism, Dorene would write two pages. It was as if she digested it and spit it back decidedly improved.

Her writing was also exceptional. And none of us were surprised when Wayne State University offered to publish a collection of her stories. (VOICES OF THE LOST AND FOUND). We were also not surprised when she stacked up various awards like Lego blocks.

Her second collection of stories debuted last week. Dorene writes about-- to quote a line from her book "women with tar-stained teeth and men carted from the automotive plant." This is an unusual cast of characters among literary writers. Most choose to spend their time with the upper middle-class or with academic types. Her writing is elegant, precise, original. I would compare her to Bonnie Jo Campbell and Mary Gaitskill, Her stories are pitch dark although they are not crime stories.

The title story is my favorite. It is a pas de deux between a mortician and a fiction writer who specializes in novels where dying characters are miraculously spared death. However, the writer is  blocked due to the ill health of his beloved wife. He can no longer spare his characters death when he is unable to save his wife.

The mortician is both attracted to and disturbed by his writing. If death is the inevitable outcome of life, the writer should acknowledge it. So this is the dilemma Ms. O'Brien sets up and deals with handily.

Also enjoyable is a story about a writer who dreams of attracting Tom Hanks with a perfect script about zombies, or the story of a man who finds his ex is now writing romance novels, or the woman in a tearoom with tarot cards who susses out Detroit's fate. There is not a dull story in the bunch.

Most admired  in each of these stories is the quality of the writing. She is incapable of writing a boring sentence. Every character is fully developed, familiar, and yet unique.

If I was reviewing this book and the writer was unknown to me, I would probably praise it more. But because I have been reading Dorene's stories for a decade or more, I have come to expect just what this book gives us-exquisite writing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Happy Birthday, Mom

Who apparently had secrets she took to her grave. Never mind, I love you despite your secret life.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Monday Feeling

Really got a kick out of the Netflix series DATING AROUND. Any one of the episodes offers some salient detail that would make a good story. The gay couples are much more forthright about sex. Quite a difference.
Reading my friend, Dorene O'Brien's, collection of stories. She may not deal with outright crime but every story is as pitch dark as anything in noir. (WHAT IT MIGHT FEEL LIKE TO  HOPE).
Broke down and got SHOWTIME so we could watch BILLIONS and RAY DONAVAN. Also BRITBOX but not sure I will keep it. Have seen so much of their library.
Love telling Alexa to play whatever and have it usually be in the amazon library.
What about you?

Friday, March 08, 2019


Books I read in 1987

Inspector Wexford is knocked out of commission when a car bomb meant for his daughter (an environmental activist and actress) injures him. This leaves his underling, Mike Burden, in charge of the case. The case concerns the death of a woman in a shopping mall garage.
She turns out to have not been the nicest woman, nor is anyone else in this story. (Rendell clearly was a bit of a misogynist). 
Both Wexford, quickly back in the saddle, and Burden have their preferred murderer. There are lots of red herrings and excellent character development in this case. I guess Rendell's dark view of humanity coincides with mine.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

First Wednesday's Book Reviews

I couldn't quite finish the book I intended to review today (THE VEILED ONE by Ruth Rendell)
But stop by Barrie Summy's place where among other great reviews, she talks about MONKEY JUSTICE.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Thnigs That are Making You Happy

Things aren't good here but I hope you will share your life with me. Anything you are reading,watching, doing. It really helps to hear that life goes on elsewhere.

Thursday, February 28, 2019


Books I read in 1987
"I hated writing it,'' said Doris Lessing in the NYT. ''It was sweating blood. I was very glad when it was done. It was an upsetting thing to write - obviously, it goes very deep into me somewhere.'' 

THE FIFTH CHILD was Doris Lessing's 35th book and was different from the other ones I've read. It was an easy read; the rest were not. And yet it was a hard read. I guess it's nearest cousin is THE BAD SEED.

The golden couple of the story (Harriet and David) have four perfect children. And then Harriet becomes pregnant again and the pregnancy is difficult, as is the birth, as is the introduction of this destructive child into the household.  He is referred to as a brute, an alien, a monster at various times. Eventually Ben is institutionalized and although the other children are relieved, Harriet cannot live with the decision and brings him back home. Although he is somewhat improved, the other children find ways to live apart. The family has been destroyed. Ben finally finds a place in a gang with other kids like him and this is of some solace to Harriet to who presides over a ruined family. 

The book stuck with me more than most. I read it in 1987 and I mentally use the term the fifth child whenever I hear of a child that brings a family down. Is it his/her fault? Probably not.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Forgotten Movies: THE RED VIOLIN

A violin is made by a great violin maker in the 1500s and this movie documents the people whose hand it falls into through current day. I can think of three other similar movies: THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE, THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE and CHANGING HANDS.

Are there any others?

This was a pretty good movie although certain parts of it entertained more than others. The story of the original owner and his wife was poignant but its days in Communist China were fairly generic. But all in all a good film. And lots of nice music. Worth your time.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Went to see the Oscar nominated short live action films and animation. Boy, those live action films were horrifying in different ways. Film 1- MADRE-a  Spanish mother gets a call from her six-year old son that he is alone on the beach and a man is coming toward him. 2-FAUVE-two boys get outmaneuvred by mother nature 3-MARGUERITE-an elderly woman and her nurse bond over an unexpressed sexuality 4-DETAINMENT-A reenactment of the Jamie Bulger murder 5) SKIN- a skinhead's hatred of black-skinned people gets turned against him. Wow.
If I were to choose a winner it would be the Bulger murder which used the real interviews and elicited sensational performances by its two stars. The animation nominees were fairly weak except for the gorgeously done WEEKENDS.
Trying to get into BILLIONS on Showtime, but boy, any mention of money and I fade away.
We always treat ourselves to a dessert during the Oscars. I am looking forward to that more than the show. 
What about you?

Friday, February 22, 2019

FFB - Rogue Males, Craig McDonald

Conversations and Confrontations about the Writing Life.

I think a second subtitle might be "with Alpha Males." Because the writers interviewed here are certainly that. All were popular when the book was written in 2009 and remain at the top of their profession 10 years on. The writers include: Crumley, Leonard, Woodrell, MacLeod, Ellroy, Collins, Cannell, Holden, Dexter, White, Russell, Friedman, Sallis, Bruen. I bet you didn't have much difficulty in identifying any of them. Leonard, McLeod and Crumley are gone, I hope all the rest remain.

He begins with Crumley and, of course, quotes what is probably the most praised first line in crime writing. "When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonora, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring day." This line is in THE LAST GOOD KISS and may never be outdone. It is perfect in that the language is plain but the image is not. 

Mcdonald's questions to these men are just what you would have liked to have answers to and their responses are generally succinct. Leonard talks most about his ten rules for writing, which had just come out then. He proclaims THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE as the best crime novel written. 

All of these men come across as writers who take their work seriously. They read widely and think about their characters. I often think that people who read most literary novels believe that genre writers (and I use these terms strictly for quick clarity) don't write beautiful prose or create memorable characters. If that is true they need to meet: Jack Taylor (Bruen) Lew Griffin (Salis), Train (Dexter), Ree Dolly (Woodrell), Nat Heller (Collins) and so on.  

This is a really fun book. Pick it up.

TODD MASON is now hosting FFB.

Monday, February 18, 2019


We got out to see a play yesterday. (The Play That Goes Wrong) It was a slapstick sort of thing-not really our sort of play--but it was nice to get out for a few hours. And I have to thank good friends for taking us to the Fisher Theater in Detroit to see it.

Got to have dinner with my son and his family Friday night in Detroit's Greektown. The streets were filled with people. The food was so-so and I am sure Detroit's idea of Greek food doesn't correspond with Athens' but it was familiar, warm, comfortable.

Watching Patrick Melrose. I admire Benedict Cumberbatch's acting but boy, is it a downer.  I will be relieved to be done with it.

Kevin got to play a scrimmage hockey game at the new Little Caesar's Hockey Arena. A thrill for his parents and him.

What about you guys?

Friday, February 15, 2019

For the Forseeable Future...

Todd will be helming Friday's Forgotten Books. Eleven years is probably long enough. I will still be here on Monday and other days. Be kind to him.

Friday's Forgotten Books, February 15, 2019

Hopefully Todd will have the links.

Monday, February 11, 2019


Saw the Oscar short docs on Saturday and whoa what a depressing bunch. First one dealt with racism among teens in a UK housing project; second end of life issues; third American Fascists meeting at Madison Square Garden in 1939, fourth about refuges trying to get to Rome on overloaded boats (many do not make it) 5th, which was my favorite about village women outside New Dehli learning how to make and sell sanitary pads. Until then they used rags and had little idea what a period was for. But it had humor and success so I give it the Oscar. Those hills of used rags outside the village was horrific though.

Enjoying RUSSIAN DOLL. Natasha Lyonne is just terrific as his her male counterpart. Clever concept that they really run with.

Reading essays by Janet Malcolm, which are weird, wonderful, overwritten. And that makes them interesting. Sometimes. The first two on a clothes designer and a pianist are fabulous.

It is so cold and so many days were icy last week. Need to get beyond this weather so I can escape more often. Oh, how I wish I was a homebody. Instead I am always itching to get out. Which are you and what have you been up to.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books, February 8, 2019

Mark Baker. MURDER ON LENOX HILL, Victoria Thompson
Elgin Bleecker, CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA, Frank Bill
Brian Busby, THE LISTENING WALLS, Margaret Millar
Crossexaminingcrime, THE LETHAL SEX, John D. Macdonald
Martin Edwards, THE PATON STREET CASE, John Bingham
Aubrey Hamilton, BLACKSHIRT PASSES, Roderic Jeffries
Richard Horton,  ANDROID AVENGER, by Ted White/THE ALTAR ON ASCONEL, by John Brunner
Jerry House, Two Graphic Novels 
George Kelley, GO, LOVELY ROSE and EVIL WISH, Jean Potts
Margot Kinberg, ARAB JAZZ, Karim Miske
Rob Kitchin, MOSKVA, Jack Grimwood
B.V. Lawson, MURDER AMONG FRIENDS, Elizabeth Ferrars
Evan Lewis, CONAN OF VENANIUM, Harry Turtledove
Steve Lewis "When We Went to See the End of the World" Robert Silverberg
Todd Mason, Wilma Shore's short fiction 
J.F. Norris, DEATH ON THE OUTER SHOAL, Anne Fuller and Marcus Allen
Matt Paust, ANATOMY OF A MURDER, Robert Traver
James Reasoner, LUST TYCOON, J X Williams
Richard Robinson, INTERSTELLAR PATROL, Christopher Anvil
Gerard Saylor, CURSE OF THE BANE, Joseph Delany
Kevin Tipple, ZERO COOL, John Lange
TracyK, THE MIRROR CRACK'D, Agatha Christie

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

First Wednesday Book Review, February 6, 2019


Throughout her life, people looked at writer Dani Shapiro and told her she couldn't be Jewish. Blonde, blue-eyed as you can see here. At 54, when she sent saliva to "23 and Me", one of the testing sites for DNA , she found out her adored father was not her biological father. She finds out pretty quickly who her biological father is and attempts to forge a relationship with him. He resists; he was a medical student who donated sperm for the greater good. He was promised anonymity. The book details her attempt to get him to recognize and acknowledge her. I can say firsthand that secrets like this are extremely difficult for children.
The reason this interested me particularly is because I found out last spring that my "social' father was not my biological father. Unlike Dani, my parents did not enter into an arrangement together. They didn't go to a clinic where infertile people were helped.

I am fairly sure my father never knew I wasn't his biological daughter but still mysteries abound. Photographs with date changes; the absence of a pregnant mother. Insurance policies with name changes. All of it to be puzzled over.
So this book interested me on a personal level. I am not sure it would have it if I didn't share her situation to some extent. But maybe all of us harbor some doubts as to our ancestors.

For more First Wednesday Book Reviews, visit Barrie Summy. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

MONKEY JUSTICE debuts on March 18

And I am looking for some blogs to talk about it on. Or have it reviewed. Sadly when I look at the places that helped me four years ago with CONCRETE ANGEL, many of them are gone. Since this is a reprint in a way, it will be a hard sell. But I very much want to try to sell some copies for Down and Out Press' sake if not mine. They were so very kind to offer to publish it.

Monday, February 04, 2019


So happy that the polar vortex is letting up on us. Today it is in the forties. I know it will not stay this warm but grateful for the break.

Really enjoyed THE COLD WAR, a Polish film about how the Cold War and the suddenness of the Soviet intervention in Eastern Europe wreaked havoc with lives. I also liked IDA by this director some years ago.

Enjoyed ESCAPE FROM DANEMORA on Showtime. We are inside so much we keep buying more and more TV. When you are ill or depressed, you lose focus and books are harder to distract.

Enjoying Paula Munier's A BORROWING OF BONES.

Love my ECHO DOT, So cool to say Alexa play Max Richter and she does. Pretty amazing. And the sound is better than on our old stereo. Alexa is very fond of Jimmy Fallon jokes. He must be an investor. 

Going to see a play now. IF/THEN. Hope it's diverting....NO! Left at intermission.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books, February 1, 2019

PICKUP, 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.
What turned you on this much?

Les Blatt, THE COLOUR OF MURDER, Julian Symons
Elgin Bleecker, A RAGE IN HARLEM, Chester Himes
Crossexaminingcrime, MURDER EVERY MONDAY, Pamela Branch
Martin Edwards, DREADFUL SUMMIT, Stanley Ellin
Curt Evans, Elizabeth Fenwick
Aubrey Hamilton, CURIOSITY KILLED A CAT, Anne Rowe
Richard Horton, THE TRANSLATOR, John Crowley
Jerry House, THE BOOK OF IOD, Henry Kuttner
George Kelley, THE GREAT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES, ed. Pohl, Greenberg,Olander
Rob Kitchin, FROM DOON WITH DEATH, Ruth Rendell
B.V. Lawson, LONELY HEART 4122, Colin Watson
Evan Lewis, ONE WHO WALKED ALONE: Robert E. Howard, the Final Years, Novalyne Price Ellis
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, "Guns of Cyrano" Raymond Chandler
Todd Mason,  WORLDS TO COME edited by Damon Knight, FOURTEEN FOR NOW edited by John Simon
J.F. Norris, JOURNEY DOWNSTAIRS,  R. Philmore
Matt Paust, MURDER BEGETS MURDER, Roderic Jeffries
James Reasoner, BUZ SAWYER, Vol 1,  Roy Crane
Richard Robinson, ISLANDS IN THE SKY, Arthur C. Clarke
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THE REMAKE: AS TIME GOES BY, Stephen Humphrey Bogart
TracyK, THE CASE OF THE WEIRD SISTERS, Charlotte Armstrong

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tuesday is Dana King Day

Find out more about Dana King at I will tempt you to go there by saying he is also a trained musician.

We are celebrating the release of his tenth book, Ten-Seven by Down and Out Books. You can find it in all the usual places.I have known Dana for a number of years but mostly online. I think he first came to my attention by writing a swell story for a flash fiction challenge. Once I crossed a street with him though. I think it was in Philly at Noircon.

Q-You have written something like ten books in the last six or seven years. How on earth do you manage it? What do you credit your prolificacy to?

A-The joke’s on you. A book typically takes me a year to a year-and-a-half to write. My perceived accelerated output comes from an excellent piece of advice I got from my first agent, the late and wonderful Pam Strickler: Don’t wait for the first book to sell before writing the second. Or third. Or fourth. It took me so long to get the first one published I’m still living off the backstock. Lucky for me I have enough in the pipeline to get me to retirement when I should be able to knock them out with more regularity.

Q-You have two series as well as a standalone. What traits distinguishes Penn River novels from Nick Forte books?

A-The most obvious is that the Forte stories are first-person narrator and the Penns River books have multiple close-third person POV. The Forte stories are as much about Forte and his issues as they are about the case, which is not unusual in PI fiction. In Penns River the main focal point is the town itself, and how the crimes described affect it and the police force. The writing for Penns River is crisper, what Charlie Stella once referred to as a “documentary” style, where Forte may go off to explore his own thoughts.

Q Similarly, do you know right away which series a new novel will be part of? Do you come up with an idea first or do you begin with one or the other series needing an addition? 

A- The idea comes first and I usually know which series it belongs to, though that’s not always the case. The third Penns River novel, Resurrection Mall, was originally a Forte story until about 35,000 words in. I wasn’t happy with where things were going and every page was a struggle, so I set it aside and took a good hard look at everything about it. The problem was I had the story in the wrong series. All I saved was the title, the name of the televangelist (Christian Love), and the slogan he used for his converted mall (“Not razed, but raised”) and the Penns River version wrote itself, relatively speaking.

Q Does one series or the other come more easily?

A- Penns River seems to come more easily lately. I think it’s because I keep up with the local news in the three small towns on which it is based. It’s also a lot easier to find cop memoirs and books on techniques than it is for private investigators, so I can take real cases in different directions. The ensemble cast helps a lot, as there are angles I can explore by making one character or another more important. I can’t do that with Forte, as he’s the person telling the story. That said, I have an idea for a kickass Forte story in the back of my mind.

Q Can you give us the elevator pitch for this latest one? 

A- A random act of violence leads the police through multiple suspects while they try to keep their heads above water with all the other everyday things small town cops have to deal with.

Q If writers write in a tradition, whose novels does your work most reflect? Or perhaps more easily, whose writing do you most admire?

A- This list changes over time. I wrote the first four Forte books first because of the influence of Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker. Now I’d have to say I’m most influenced by Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, and Joseph Wambaugh. Those are the Big Three I go back to when I need a prod—them and Dashiell Hammett, with a little George V. Higgins thrown in for dialog—and reading them is always like taking a class.

Q  What is hardest for you as a writer- the idea for a story, creating characters, editing, coming up with a memorable ending, not letting social media distract me, promoting my work. 

A- No question, it’s promotion. Like most writers I’m an introvert. I like some level of attention, but it goes against my nature to seek it out. Everything else is at least a little fun, in part because those are the parts I have some control over. Once I’m in a promotional situation—could be an interview, a signing, or on a panel—I’m fine, but having to approach people to get those opportunities is the hardest, and most uncomfortable, aspect of writing for me.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Glad we were able to get to Kevin's rock concert on Saturday. A long ride but worth it to see those kids rock their hearts out. He went straight from there to his hockey game, which they won 6-2. Where do they get the energy? And I mean his parents as much as him.

Although I did not like STAN AND OLLIE very much, I admired the acting  of Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly. They deserved a more dynamic script. Surely they must have had more routines than the movie showed. Or maybe not. It seemed like a very low budget movie because we didn't even get many location shots.

Glad we are having more sun than usual even though the high is below zero on Wednesday.

Enjoyed SEX EDUCATION on Netflix. The kids in it are sweet and most of the adults are too. Gillian Anderson has turned out to be a very versatile actress.

What about you?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Congrats to Megan

Abbott Moves to Putnam

After a 12-house auction, Megan Abbott signed a three-book North American rights deal with Putnam’s Sally Kim, moving from Little, Brown in the process. Though Putnam offered no details about the titles under the deal, it confirmed that the first is slated for 2021. Abbott, a celebrated crime fiction author, was represented by Dan Conaway at Writers House. Now a sought-after name in Hollywood, Abbott is a writer on the HBO drama The Deuce. She also, Putnam noted, has nearly all of her novels in “active development” for either TV or film, and is the co-creator of a USA Network series based on her novel Dare Me.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 25, 2019

(from the archives) Nigel Bird

Stuart Kaminsky: Murder On The Yellow Brick Road

I’ve just come to the end of a rather good book. ‘City Of Dragons’ is set in the 1940s and centres upon the work of private eye Miranda Corbie. She’s a tough, hard-drinking, attractive lady with a history as colourful as a butterfly and she’s a wonderful addition to the world of detective fiction.
The good news for me is that I’ve heard from the author, Kelli Stanley, that Miranda is to make a reappearance or two, which gives me something to look forward to and a couple of easier choices when I’m facing the bookstore shelves at some point in the future.

I love to be able to watch characters as their lives unfold from one book to the next, to see them age alongside the people around them as their worlds change. It’s like forming any relationship – the more time you spend in someone else’s company, the better you get to know them (for better or worse). I’ve spent many happy hours with Maigret, Van Der Valk, Harry Bosch, Matt Scudder, Nick Stefanos, Hap Collins/Leonard Pine, and I’m always delighted to discover someone new and interesting to befriend.

One such character has been Toby Peters. I was surprised recently to see that he wasn’t even in contention on a site looking for a favourite detective – didn’t even make the first hundred. I have no idea why. He’s a fabulous character. Powerful and tough on the exterior, soft yet cynical, clever and determined and with a real code of discretion and loyalty that goes further than any sane person would take it. He’s not a son of Chandler or Hammett, but can’t be much further away than being one of their nephews.

He’s no derivative character, either. There’s a difference between homage and imitation and Kaminsky seems to understand that well.
In ‘Murder On The Yellow Brick Road’ we see Kaminsky (and Peters) at his finest. It’s not the first in the series so things are well developed and it’s not further on in the series when Kaminsky hadn’t quite found the confidence needed to leave out elements of the back-story.

“SOMEBODY HAD MURDERED a Munchkin,” is the opening line. Coming on the back of a wonderful title, I was hooked from that point on.
Toby Peters is called in to investigate. Employed over at Warner Brothers until he broke the arm of a B movie cowboy-actor, his services are enlisted by MGM to keep Judy Garland’s name out of the dirt.
It’s his discretion and his integrity that land him a job; that and an interview with Louis B Mayer. Judy is in a difficult position and it’s not looking good for either the star or the star-machine.
In steps Peters. He defends a Swiss midget seen arguing with his fellow Munchkin and victim on a number of occasions and follows up on leads that take him to interview Clark Gable. Later, while working the case, he bumps into Raymond Chandler who’s hoping to get some tips, meets some rough and dangerous characters and he even gets to see Randolph Hearst.
There’s a reel of film involved, blackmail plots and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing all the way. When the villain of the piece is revealed, you’re only a few steps ahead of the game, which keeps it tense and interesting to the end.

Looking at the cast of characters, it would be easy to dismiss this book as a gimmick. I choose to see it in a different way. Kaminsky is playing to his strengths, marrying together his passion and knowledge of film and fiction to create a tale that is worthy of the best.
By mixing in real characters into his plots he was taking a big chance given that many people have strong feelings about all those involved. I’m no expert, but the way Garland and Gable come across it feels entirely as I might have imagined.

At times, the humour and the theatrical nature of the plot and scenes are used to paper over any cracks and the result is a real gem. It’s not only Peters who we come to love. There are a number of other characters in his life who have been beautifully constructed.

There’s Sheldon Mink, lunatic dentist with whom Peters shares an office. Anyone visiting him for treatment should really be seeing a shrink.
Jeremy Butler is the man who owns the building where Mink and Peters hang out. He’s an ex-wrestler, new-father and ageing poet rolled into one package, as well as being someone that’s useful to have around when the going gets tough.
There’s his landlady, a deaf old bird who seems to have selective hearing and a desire to have her memoirs published.
And there’s his brother, a big wig in the police force. When it comes to sibling rivalry we’re talking Cain and Abel. Unlike Toby, Lieutenant Phil Pevsner hasn’t changed his name to mask his heritage. Phil also happens to have the temper of a Berserker and the strength of a team of oxen and he uses both pretty much every time they have a reunion.
These characters play key roles in this and the following books.

When I came to finish ‘Yellow Brick Road’ I really needed to get straight into another. And another after that. And how’s this for a title of a later book - Mildred Pierced; it takes a hell of a mind to come up with jewels like that on such a regular basis.
Light, intriguing and rooted in the early days of detective fiction, pick up this book and you’re sure to return to mine the rich vein that lays waiting for you.

Mark Baker, LOST LIGHT, Michael Connelly
Les Blatt, THE DARK GARDEN, E.R Punshon
Elgin Bleecker, STEVE COSTIGAN STORIES, Robert E. Howard
Martin Edwards, THE MIDDLE TEMPLE MURDER, J.S. Fletcher 
Aubrey Hamilton, GOOD NIGHT, SWEET PRINCE, Carole Berry
Richard Horton, BLINDSIGHT, Peter Watts
Jerry House, TWO-GUN SHOWDOWN, Murray Leinster 
George Kelley, THE GREAT SF STORIES #5, ed. Asimov and Greenberg
     CHOPRA, Vaseem Khan  
Rob Kitchin, DEAD TO ME, Cath Staincliffe 
B.V. Lawson, APPLEBY'S END, Michael Innes
Evan Lewis, POST OAKS AND SAND ROUGH, Robert E. Howard
Steve Lewis, THE EVIL STAR, John Spain 
J.F. Norris, THE DEATHS OF LORA KAREN, Roman McDougald
ONLY DETECT, HAG'S NOOK, John Dickson Carr 
James Reasoner, WALK OUT OF HELL, Brett Waring 
Richard Robinson, THE SPACE TUG, Murray Leinster
Gerard Saylor, SECRET HISTORY, Donna Tartt
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, SKYLAR, Gregory McDonald

Monday, January 21, 2019

Happy Anniversary

Pretty Maids all in a row. Those dresses must  have been freezing in January!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 18, 2019


I have been more or less waiting for this book to be old enough to use here. It was published in 2007 . It is my favorite book of one of my favorite writers. And we met O'Nan in California at a signing and he is as nice as you would expect from his books. Maybe that should not count for much but it does with me.

Set on the last day of business of a Connecticut Red Lobster, this  novel tells the story of Manny DeLeon, a conscientious restaurant manager that should be in high demand. Instead, corporate headquarters has notified Manny that his branch will close right before Christmas. On top of that, he'll be assigned to a nearby Olive Garden and demoted to assistant manager. He has also lost Jacquie, a waitress who has come to mean more to him than his girlfriend Deena, who is pregnant with his child. On this last night, a blizzard hits, customers stay at home as do employees and Manny has a tough time finding a Christmas gift for Deena. Lunch gives way to dinner with hardly anyone stopping to eat, but Manny refuses to close early or give up hope. This is perfection for me.

Elgin Bleecker, THREE HOURS PAST MIDNIGHT, Tony Knighton
Brian Busby, A LOVER MORE CONDOLING, Adrienne Clarkson
Crossexaminingcrime, WHY DIDN't THEY ASK EVANS, Agatha Christie
Martin Edwards, FELL MURDER, E.C. R. Lorac
Curt Evans, THE WEEKEND MYSTERY, Robert A Simon
Happiness Is a Warm Book (Aubrey Hamilton), THE DIVISION BELL MYSTERY, Ellen Wilkinson
Richard Horton, THE FLOWER BENEATH THE FOOT,  Ronald Firbank
Jerry House, FLUKE, James Herbert
George Kelley, TIME AND TIME AGAIN, Robert Silverberg
Margot Kinberg, PORTRAIT OF A MURDERER, Anne Meredith
Evan Lewis, BULLET FROM NOWHERE,  Robert Leslie Bellem
Todd Mason, THE COMPLETE STORIES OF THEODORE STURGEON, ed. Paul Williams and Noel Sturgeon
J.F.. Norris, DARKNESS OF SLUMBER, Rosemary Kutak
Only Detect, DO NOT DISTURB, Helan McCloy
Matt Paust, MAYHEM. J. Robert Janes
James Reasoner, THE TIME TRAP, Henry Kuttner
Richard Robinson, A KILLING IN QUAIL COUNTRY, Jameson Cole
Laurel Scholnick, HORRORS, ed Charles Grant
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, MISCHIEF IN MAGGODY, Joan Hess
TomCat, DEATH KNELL, Baynard Kendrick