Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Books Set in Hotels

A lot of Christie's make great use of hotels but so does mainstream fiction. I  am thinking of MRS. PALFREY AT THE CLAREMOUNT (Elizabeth Taylor) and HOTEL DU LAC by Anita Brookner.
Any more?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Favorite Movies of 2007

  (Excuse wonky spacing). Can't seem to fix it.

Painted Veil                                                                                                                  Volver                                                                                                                                        Zodiac

Lives of Others
First Snow
51 Birch Street
Away From Her
3:10 to Yuma
Gone Baby Gone
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
Starting Out in the Evening
Sweeney Todd

TODAY: I don't remember FIRST SNOW but I am going to look it up. The rest I still would vote for. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

We have been enjoying Escape to the Country on Netflix. If you like to look at the English countryside and watch couples explore houses, this is a great series. The houses are so much more interesting than the ones on similar U.S. shows. You don't hear repeated use of the words "open concept" and no one is big on stainless steel or cookie cutter kitchens. Although these are pretty pricey houses on the whole. Don't get me wrong. We are not looking at semi-detached houses in Manchester.

Been reading RUNAWAY by Alice Munro, which I read before but after seeing the Almodovar film Julieta I wanted to see how they used three stories for the narrative. Always amazed how she can tell a novel's worth of a story in a few thousand words.

Kevin and two of his friends were here on Thursday. So interesting to see how instead of playing a game they take it apart and film the game playing itself, adding dialogue and movement. Or instead of playing football they film each other catching the ball and them make it go backwards or in slow motion. They used two ipads and two iphones hooked together to get the effects . Pretty amazing but they don't know where India is on a map. Theirs is going to be a different world if there's a world left for them.

So kind of the Oakland Press is going an interview with me. The two Detroit papers have been singularly uninterested in doing this sort of story for years and in fact, have never responded to an email from Polis Books or me. Or even done a feature on Megan. But this smaller paper responded right away when the MWA contacted them about the Edgar nomination.

The movie A SENSE OF AN ENDING. It wasn't quite  as good as the very difficult book. But what I loved about it was seeing older people treated seriously, Older people who were not ill. And I loved seeing the faces of Jim Broadbent, Harriet Walters, Charlotte Rampling and several others still carrying a movie. Rampling is as mysterious as ever. Did she ever play an unambiguous person?

The fabulous soundtracks on so many TV shows now. Have really enjoyed the music on BIG LITTLE LIES lately. (Also ATLANTA, THE LEFTOVERS, THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE)

That I have a friend like Mary who went to Ulta with me to pick out makeup. Sounds like a small thing but I have never really learned much about it, coming from the hippie tradition. She's been my closest friend for 25 years and I love her. (As does Phil).

I know the things that make me happy tend to be books, movies, plays, music rather than personal relationship-related things. But you can just assume that my family always makes me  happy.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Night Music

Friday's Forgotten Books, March 17, 2017

(from the archives)

LONESOME ROAD (reviewed by Al Tucher)

By George Harsh.

Since 1986 I have worked as a cataloger at the Newark Public Library, which has existed since 1883. The library has some very deep collections, and exploring them is both my job and a perk of my job. A recent project in the biography section brought me into contact with Lonesome Road, a 1971 memoir by George Harsh.

In 1928 Harsh was a rich, arrogant, idle young college student in Georgia. He and other rich, arrogant, idle young men spent much of their time discussing their superiority over the masses and the uses to which they should put that superiority. This was only four years after the Leopold and Loeb case, but it seems part of the “superman” pathology to dismiss possible lessons from anyone else’s experience. The young men in Harsh’s circle decided that they were able and therefore obligated to commit the perfect crime.

For the thrill of it they began a string of armed robberies. When a store clerk resisted, Harsh was the one holding the gun and the one who fired the lethal shot.

The police easily caught the young supermen, and Harsh was sentenced to death. His codefendants received life sentences, and the prosecutor, troubled by the disparity, succeeded in having Harsh’s sentence commuted to life. Writing years later, Harsh is unsparing toward his young self. He deserved to hang, he says, but he received more mercy than he had shown with the gun in his hand.

He spent the next several years on a Georgia chain gang that was brutal even by the standards of the time and place. Eventually, he became a trusty with a job as an orderly in a prison hospital.

Here we encounter the first of several plot twists that only reality can get away with writing. When an inmate needed an emergency appendectomy, a freak ice storm kept the staff physicians from reaching the hospital. Harsh, who had assisted at several such operations, performed the surgery and saved the man’s life. The governor of Georgia pardoned him.

The year was 1940. George Harsh felt undeserving of peace and security while so much of the world was at war. He traveled north and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Harsh flew numerous bombing missions over Germany. His luck ran out in 1942, when he was shot down. His captors sent him to Stalag Luft III.

Fiction writers, try getting away with that one. In the 1963 film The Great Escape, the character called Intelligence, played by Gordon Jackson, is based on Harsh. He was not one of the 80-plus POWs who made it through the tunnel before it was discovered, which was just as well. Only a handful made it to safety. The rest were recaptured, and the Gestapo summarily executed more than fifty of them.

Harsh survived a brutal forced march westward, away from the advancing Red Army. His narrative ends there.

His story does not. In 1945 he was in his mid-thirties and had spent mere days as a grown man neither incarcerated nor at war. In another twist that in its own way might be the strangest of all, he worked for a while as a publisher’s traveling sales representative. The experiment in freedom was not a success. The memory of his crime tormented him, and he attempted suicide. Later he suffered a stroke, and in 1980 he died.

No collaborator in the writing of this book is named. If it is Harsh’s work, it counts as a remarkable achievement. He knows when and how to make his writing as terse and urgent as Morse code in the night, and his meditations on freedom, imprisonment, violence and war come with a hard-earned authority.

Did George Harsh atone for his crime? It’s a tough call that will vary from reader to reader. Does his book deserve a place on the shelf? In my mind, beyond all doubt.

Sergio Angelini, OUR GAME, John LeCarre
Yvette Banek, CORPSES IN ENDERBY, George Bellairs
Bill Crider, ONCE AROUND THE BLOCH, Robert Bloch
Martin Edwards, THE TEST MATCH MURDER, Denzel Batchelor
Richard Horton, THE SUPER BARBARIANS, John Brunner
Jerry House, THE MOON METAL, Garrett P. Serviss
Margot Kinberg, LA CONFIDENTIAL, James Ellroy
B.V. Lawson, A LONG FATAL LOVE CHASE, Louisa May Alcott
Evan Lewis, WAR AGAINST THE MAFIA, Don Pendleton Steve Lewis, KILLED IN  PARADISE, William I DiAndrea
Todd Mason, POPCORN AND SEXUAL POLITICS: Movie Review from Kathi Maio
Neer, THE THIRD EYE, Ethel Lina White 
Matt Paust, THE COREY FORD SPORTING TREASURY, Chuck Petrie, editor
Reactions to Reading, THE CASE OF THE LATE PIG, Margery Allingham
James Reasoner, JUST THE WAY IT IS, James Hadley Chase
Gerard Saylor, THE BODY LOVERS, Mickey Spillane
Kevin Tipple, IT HAPPENED ONE KNIFE, Jeffrey Cohen
TracyK, DEALBREAKER, Harlen Coben
Westlake Review, BAD NEWS, Part 2

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


A friend loaned us a book she had just read, THE WIDOW, Fiona Barton, which she was so-so about. Her main complaint was the ending. This friend is mostly a reader of crime fiction, and in particular, police procedurals and the better series of cozies. She is a very bright woman. Phil picked it up and found no problem with the ending. Now he doesn't read cozies at all and mostly reads literary fiction (or whatever you want to call it). Their expectations on what the ending would bring were very different. Yet he can also enjoy a twisty read as much as the next guy.

I ran into this again today when someone online reviewed a book called THE BOY WHO NEVER WAS (Karen Perry), which he disliked. It sounded intriguing to me so I looked at a lot of reviews and found traditional crime readers were unhappy with it but those looking for more mainstream novel liked it a lot.

Do your expectations vary with the kind of book you are reading? Do you require a big finish on a book that is not crime?

What do you require from a novel in general?Does it differ with different genres?