Sunday, November 29, 2009

Every Once in a While

my subconscious mind writes a story without my conscious mind knowing it. Does this ever happen to you? Suddenly it comes pouring out as if someone was whispering in your ear or guiding your hand.

And if so, are those your best stories? Can you remember which ones came easiest later?

Are the best stories the ones we work on the hardest or the ones that come like a gift?

This certainly did not happen with the flash piece I will put up tomorrow. I sweat bullets over it because the milieu was not familiar to me. That voice was never there.
Neither my conscious or subconscious mind wants to claim it.


Some time ago, I wrote about the murder of one of the finest students (Courtney Solomon) in our graduate program by her football player boyfriend, Javorris Jackson, who was trying out for the Detroit Lions, where his brother, Grady, plays.

This comes from her mother, Yvonne Solomon.

Trial begins Monday, November 30th Judge Hathaway's Court at Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit. Jury selection is first on Monday at 9:00am... Atty Dorsey is not sure how long the selection process could take... 1/2 hour, 1/2 day, full day? He anticipates trial will now be 3- 4 days max... IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, PLEASE ATTEND... PLEASE SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR JUSTICE FOR COURTNEY!!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Taste for Music

Although we might all share a common interest in movies, though we may share a common sensibility in books, though we all might find ourselves watching TV shows like A PLACE OF EXECUTION or HOMICIDE or THE WIRE, our taste in music is probably the least predictable.

Is music the most age-dependent media? Does anyone over a certain age listen to certain types of music? My husband attended a classical music event today (Sunday) and not a single person was under age fifty. I bet a concert of current hiphop or alternative music would yield the same inverted results. Do you have an ear for any genre of music? Is anyone open to all music? Are you more circumspect in musical recommendations than book or movie or TV shows?

Friday, November 27, 2009

THE SUMMING UP, Friday, November 27, 2009


Paul Bishop, Dead Reckoning, Sam Llewellyn
Bill Crider, Cry at Dusk, Lester Dent
Martin Edwards, The Last of Philip Banter, Julian Symons
Ray Foster, Mrs. Dale's Bedside Book, Jonquil Antony
Ed Gorman, A Hidden Place, Robert Charles Wilson
George Kelley, Tropic of Night, Michael Gruber
Evan Lewis, Homicide, Johnny Fisher
Todd Mason, "Goldbrick" (novella), Edward Wellen (in Fantasy and SF)
Terrie Moran, A Prayer for Owen Meaney, John Irving
Eric Peterson, Lemons Never Lie, Richard Stark
James Reasoner, White Indian, Donald Clayton Porter (Noel Gerson)
Rick Robinson, Midnight Specials, Bill Prozini, Editor
Kerrie Smith, Black as He's Painted, Ngaio Marsh
R.T. Earth Abides, George R. Stewart

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, November 27, 2009

We have mega birthdays going on here today, so if I missed you, slide me a reminder. Happy Birthday, Dad. 95. Happy Birthday, Kevin, 3. I'll get the Summing Up tomorrow.

Ed Gorman is the author of the soon to be released TICKET TO RIDE. He hangs around

Forgotten Books: A Hidden Place by Robert Charles Wilson

In the course of a year I usually read twenty or twenty five novels that impress me. Some for characterization, some for story, some for milieu. But I rarely read a novel that astonishes me.

When Robert Charles Wilson's first novel A Hidden Place appeared as a Bantam paperback original in 1986, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I received it along with three or four other science fiction Bantams. I think I put it on the bottom of the stack. The other novels were by writers I knew. Whatever reluctance I felt vanished when I read the first page.

The story here concerns a young man named Travis Fisher who is sent to live with his aunt because his mother, a troubled woman, has died. What he finds in his aunt's house is an intolerable uncle who demands that Travis lives by steely rules he himself frequently breaks. He also finds Anna, the strange beautiful woman who boards upstairs. Travis is so stunned by her he can barely form sentences. He also takes up Nancy Wilcox, a smart, witty girl who is bursting to escape the brutal social order of this small town.

Parallel to this story line is the one of the odd hobo Bone. Because the novel is set in the worst years of the Depression, Bone becomes our tour guide, showing us exactly how people of various kinds behaved during this time. Bone is a transfixing figure, as mysterious as Anna and perhaps linked to her in some way.

I don't want to start listing plot twists here. All I'll say is that each is cleverly set up and magnificently sprung on the reader. What I'd rather talk about is the writing. In the course of reading A Hidden Place, I heard many voices--among them Sherwood Anderson, William Faulkner and the Theodore Dreiser who wrote An American Tragedy. The irony is that Wilson is a Canadian. He may or may not have read any of these writers. But except for John Steinbeck, I've never read place description to equal the power and poetry of Wilson's shantytowns or railroad goons; nor have I encountered a better picture of the small towns of that era.

But most of all the book is about people. Wilson's characters will take up permanent residence in your memory. So many of them ache for things they can't have, for things they don't even understand. Wilson writes with a razor.

Twenty years later we find that Robert Charles Wilson is a highly regarded science fiction writer, winner of many awards and several lengthy studies. I believe I've read every novel he's published. But much as I love them I always go back to this one. In its sorrows and its griefs and the beauties of its writing, we find a rare kind of truth, a statement about what it means to be human.

Paul Bishop
Bill Crider
Martin Edwards
George Kelley
Terrie Moran
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Kerrie Smith
Evan Lewis
Ray Foster
Todd Mason
Eric Peterson

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for all of the people who have written reviews for Friday's Forgotten Books in the last 20 months. Especially those who do one nearly every week. I am thankful for Jeff Pierce who takes this pleasant task on with me.

I am thankful for the all the editors of zines who put in so many hours of work so that others can see their stories in print.

I am thankful for Graham Powell, who keeps Crimespot afloat.

I am thankful that "blogger" is free and lets me indulge myself.

I am thankful for the writers who take up my challenge for a flash fiction piece.

I am thankful for the generosity of almost everyone I run into on blogland. Sharing pieces of themselves with people they will probably never meet. Your advice is always valued as are your recommendations.

I am thankful for my husband, who listens to me chatter on about people he doesn't know at all and even asks questions. I AM VERY THANKFUL FOR HIM IN EVERY WAY. How many spouses have never made you cry or go to bed angry in 42 years? He has supported me in every way every day since we met.

I am thankful that my Dad is still with us, turning 95 tomorrow and all the rest of my friends and family members.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Megan's Secret Love

Five Favorite from '09


First a question, work related. I have been advised to use word press to set up a blog for a program at my university. The blog will function as a news source among other things for students and alumni. Do those of you who use word press recommend it for this use? I have only used blogger.

Five Favorites from '09

With the year winding down, Crimespree Cinema's Jeremy Lynch has invited authors, reviewers, bloggers to offer five favorites of '09 from film, television, or DVD:

I'd prefer to do Nine Nuggets from '09 but I'm playing by Mister Lynch's rules and sticking to five.


An Education-A complex look at what an education, defined broadly, means to a woman in the early sixties.

Lorna's Silence-the Dardenne Brothers' look at the desperation of immigrants and those who prey on them.

The Hurt Locker-the best movie so far about the current war. It hurts so bad.

Mad Men-a show that captures the ambiguity of American life circa 1963. Style and substance (IMHO).

Dexter-a show that succeeds based on superlative writing, acting and ambience. Every surprise, every situation arises from a solid foundation.

Your turn

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Less than one Week to Go to: Walmart, I Love You

(Let me know if you are posting a review this Friday and I will post your link.)

And check out latecomer, Laurie Powers fabulous ode to THAT GIRL, also my favorite show of my teenage years.

Here are the writers who emailed me or left comments they were going to participate. If life caught up with you and you couldn't make time, no sweat as Wally Cleaver might have said.

Just let me know your general URL if you're going to post a story by the 28th so I have time to get them in order for the 30th. A few of those listed below have notified Aldo and their stories will appear on Powder Burn Flash.

Here's the original post for those who missed it.

Evan Lewis
Sandra Seamans (maybe)
John D
Dana King
Kieran Shea
Loren Eaton
Fleur Bradley
Keith Rawson
Dorte H
Eric Beetner
Eric Peterson
Bryon Q.
The Walking Man (maybe)
Christopher Grant
Charles Gramlich
Kathleen Ryan
Katt Dunsmore
Garnett Elliott
Kate Thornton
Jack Bates
Jerry House
Cindy Woods
Chad Eagleton
Cormac Brown
Patrick Bagley (maybe)
Al Tucher
Stephen Rogers
Kaye George
Jimmy Calloway
John Weagly
Patti Abbott
John McFetridge
Alan Griffiths
Todd Mason
Steve Weddle
Daniel O'Shea

  • Did I miss anyone?

Monday, November 23, 2009

The TV Show I Loved: Leave it To Beaver
A classic episode.

I shouldn't have loved Leave It to Beaver as much as I did because it was routinely pointed out to me by my grandmother that I didn't measure up to Wally and the Beaver. I didn't use Sir and M'am nearly enough. My table manners were not as good at theirs. I wasn't always washing my hands (they spent an inordinate amount of time in that bathroom off their bedroom). I wasn't nearly as tidy in my dress. Having so many scenes in a bathroom seems unusual.

But her words didn't have much of an impact (gradmothers did a lot of scolding in those days). I liked the show then and still do now. Leave it to Beaver ran from 1957 to 1963 and was written by Bob Mosher and Joe Connelly, who'd earlier written the Amos and Andy radio show and would later write The Munsters. It starred Hugh Beaumont as Ward Cleaver, Barbara Billingsley as June, Tony Dow as Wally and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver. Why "the" in front of Beaver, I don't know, but it was used quite a lot.

Set in the town of Mayfield, Anywhere, the Cleavers were an upper middle class suburban family that probably mirrored very few of the lives of its viewers. Their life was a bit too easy financially, a bit too neat and tidy. The infamous pearls and dresses June wore were unfamiliar to most of us although I remember my mother getting dressed for dinner in the fifties.

What made it special was that so much of LITB was from the POV of the boys. The writers were on their side and seldom let them behave unrealistically, never let them flounder too much in their stunts. They assumed as we did that their motives were good and age-appropriate. It was easy to imagine myself in such a jam. (Although I would never climbed up into that cup on a billboard or let a homeless guy into the house).

The Cleaver parents were also subjected to the writers' microscope and made their share of parenting mistakes. They worried about such things routinely, re-thought poor decisions they had made, and corrected them. June always reminded Ward that boys today were different from those in his rural youth. Ward reminded June that boarding school was different from Mayfield Public High.

The show hummed due to its writing and it holds up very well today because it was never overly sanctimonious or too sure-footed in its view of the world. The writers were not afraid to make each Cleaver and his friends and neighbors look fairly ridiculous from time to time. If Eddie Haskell has endured as the case study of "bad influence" the Cleavers assumed they had raised a son smart enough to shake it off. How progressive was that!

I was exactly Beaver's age and had a mad crush on Wally, as did every girl I knew. An autographed picture of Wally hung on my wall. "Find a boy like Wally Cleever," must have been uttered more than once over those years and reportedly, he is as nice in person as on the show. No one offered the same advice about Beaver, who was much more like the rest of us.

I watched an early episode last week: Wally comes home from the barbershop with a ridiculous haircut, which all the boys have. June cannot let go of this and even sees the principal about it. (Something that would soon play out in many homes across the country). The show cleverly played a bit of rock music every time Wally or other boys with this haircut entered the room. In this show, June was allowed to be imperfect. How can you not like a show where everyone is allowed such a thing. It was the conforming fifties, but the Cleavers (or their writers) managed to sneak in a little bit more. Never sanctimonious, never out of touch, it plays well for me today.

Some other TV Shows. Maybe.

Todd Mason
Chad Eagleton
James Reasoner
Eric Peterson
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
Laura Curtis
Evan Lewis
Rick Robinson
Cap'n Bob Napier
Bill Crider
Laurie Powers

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Something odd is happening more and more. I find myself reading, watching, and listening to things that people on blogs have suggested. My MP3 player is loaded with music recommended by people on here last spring. I am reading books I never would have heard of if not for the Internet community. Right now I am watching a many part DVD series from thirty years ago called Playing Shakespeare someone recommended. And reading Otto Penzler's THE LINEUP, also recommended online.

Isn't this a strange thing? That a bunch of people who have mostly never met can share such information. Is this true for you too? What was the most recent thing you saw/heard about on the Internet or on blogland and read, watched or listened to you that you might not have heard of otherwise?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

An Alphabet for Adults Only

Check out this cool new book of photographs by Julian Hibbard.

Warning not for the faint of heart.

It's one the Noir Con site.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats

Check out my review on Crimespree Cinema and tell me if I'm wrong.

What was the last film you expected to like but didn't.

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, November 20, 2009

Girls reading about vampires. (Hat tip to Sandra).

Jeff Pierce (THE RAP SHEET) and I have agreed to take off Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks. But we'll be there for all of the others. I will be happy to post links for anyone who still plans to carry on.

Jeff Vande Zande lives in Midland, MI and teaches English at Delta College. He is the author of Emergency Stopping and Other Stories (Bottom Dog Press) and the poetry collection Poems New, Used, and Rebuilds (March Street Press). His two novels are Into the Desperate Country (March Street Press) and the recently released Landscape with Fragmented Figures (Bottom Dog Press). Very soon, Whistling Shade Press will release his novella and stories, Threatened Species and Other Stories. He maintains a website at and loves to sell signed, discounted books to people who email him at

Having read it two times back to back, I think I have some things to say about David Boyer’s 1968 novel The Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker. I am convinced that it is a significant piece of literature . . . especially in the disillusioned protagonist genre.

Jonathan, the main character, a college graduate, finds himself in a world that doesn’t make sense to his sensitive intelligence – reminiscent of Holden Caufield (though he doesn’t go on and on about people being phony). Instead, he finds himself surrounded by two cold cities and their inhabitants . . . Philadelphia and New York. The people around him are self-centered, callous and, in a word, crazy. Despite his behavior, Jonathan might be the only sane person in the book . . . even though all the rest are simply going about being ordinary people . . . or, when seen through Jonathan’s eyes, crazy people. It’s refreshing though that Boyer doesn’t have Jonathan think and think about the madness of others. He just experiences it, and we experience it with him.

If Jonathan experiences little that is good from ordinary people, he finds no solace when surrounded by intellectuals and artists, either. For instance, at a party . . .

“I wandered around the apartment drinking beer and listening to people talk. I learned that ‘Kubla Khan’ was actually an account of orgasm, that Martin Luther had anal fixation, and that Lot’s wife had conversion hysteria . . . the fruit in Genesis could not be an apple, because an apple has no symbolic meaning; thus the fruit must be a banana because the banana is an obvious symbol of the phallus. Eve ate it. Then Adam ate it . . .

‘That’s a lot of horseshit,’ I said, and went into the bathroom.”

In John Updike’s Rabbit Run, Rabbit Angstrom, Updike’s disillusioned protagonist, turns to sex when modern life smothers him. It’s a tired theme. Benjamin of The Graduate pretty much does the same thing – though it’s more out of boredom than anything else.

It’s refreshing that Jonathan has access to sex with both a nymphomaniac and a rich mistress, but it doesn’t do much for him. Given a chance to escape with his mistress to the Bahamas, he changes her plans so they can go to the Poconos. There, they stay in a cabin, shut off all the power (including the furnace), and live for a few days in front of the fireplace – cooking food, making love, and keeping each other warm. It’s Jonathan at his happiest. He enjoys the simplicity of chopping wood.

But, their return to the city brings Jonathan back to his cold reality. Things that used to help him escape don’t do much for him – like spray painting the glass windows on parking meters or having fake sword fights on the subway. He withdraws from everyone, lives in his apartment, and picks through the trash to see what he can discover about his neighbors’ lives.

In the spring, hearing his neighbors fighting about the nuisance of their little boy, Jonathan offers to take the kid to the zoo.

Jonathan sees something important in the way the boy appreciates the zoo . . .

“We visited the birdhouse, and he got so involved in a sulfur-breasted toucan that I started to get nervous. How could he, when the deities of his life were tyrants and fools, become so absorbed in a ridiculous-looking bird from South America? . . .

In the small-mammal house he got hooked by the sloth, and I began wishing that I could creep into the boy’s skull and examine the world with his vision. My own seemed more and more shaky."

In a rather touching moment on the walk back from the zoo, Jonathan asks the boy in earnest if he will be his friend.

“He looked at me and nodded. We walked a ways in silence, and then I said, ‘I need someone like you. I haven’t any equilibrium of my own. It’s sort of a makeshift arrangement, and I’m somewhat lost without my gadgetry. But you seem pretty solid to me. You know what I mean?’ He shrugged. ‘I guess you don’t, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I borrow some of that solidness of yours. Okay?'"

The boy is agreeable, but that night the father phones Jonathan and calls him a pervert and tells him to stay away from his son.

So, there’s a little Catcher in the Rye . . . the beauty and innocence of the child.

From here, Jonathan’s descent into despair goes much faster. I wouldn’t want to give away the ending, other than to say that it’s entirely satisfying.

If you can get your hands on a copy of The Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker . . . do. It’s a really interesting read that more people should be talking about.

I think I might actually read it a third time.

Ed Gorman writes crime, westerns, anthologies and a blog here.
A Memory of Murder, Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury's first collection, published in 1947 by Arkham House, contained so many memorable and lasting stories it has become legendary. A single book by a young writer including true masterpieces such as "The Lake," "The Small Assassin," "The Homecoming," "Uncle Einar" and many, many more--just about unthinkable. A fair share of these stories were later included in The October Country, a collection that is for me the equal of The Martian Chronicles.There's another collection that in the scheme of Bradbury's career is far less important but equally interesting. When Dell published A Memory of Murder we were given our first look at the crime and suspense stories Bradbury wrote for such pulps as Dime Mystery Magazine and New Detective Magazine. Most of the stories appeared between 1944 and 1946. I've probably read this book four or five times over the years. It has the energy and inventiveness of all good pulp with the bonus of watching a young writer struggle to find the voice that is really his. In several of the stories we hear the voice that Bradbury will later perfect. He's often proclaimed his admiration of Cornell Woolrich and here we see the dark Woolrich influence, especially in the excellent "The Candy Skull" (Mexico has long fascinated Bradbury; here it's nightmare Mexico), "The Trunk Lady" and (what a title) "Corpse Carnival." One of Bradbury's most famous stories is here also, "The Small Assassin," written for a penny a word for Dime Mystery Magazine in 1946.The most interesting story is "The Long Night." I remember the editor who bought it writing a piece years later about what a find it was. And it is. A story set in the Hispanic area of Los Angeles during the war, it deals with race and race riots, with the juvenile delinquency that was a major problem for this country in the war years (remember The Amboy Dukes?) and the the paternal bonds that teenage boys need and reject at the same time. A haunting, powerful story that hints at the greatness that was only a few years away from Bradbury.What can I tell you? I love this book. At its least it's a pure pulp romp and at its best it's the master about to change science fiction forever. And making a memorable pass at making his mark on crime fiction as well.

Bill Peschel is a mystery writer, book reviewer and working on a book of essays, Writers Gone Wild. You can find him here.

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. By Paul Malmont

In the 1930s, the heyday of the pulp era, magazines like "Thrilling Detective," "Amazing Stories" and the like kicked ass, took names, and shaped the morals of millions of American readers. The writers who created the heroes like Doc Savage and The Shadow worked under impossible deadlines for pennies a word to give us tales of the fantastic, of Oriental criminal gangs, dens of vice and iniquity, weird villains, two-fisted heroes and dames to be ornamental and rescued. At its height, as a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard reminds us in "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril," 30,000,000 pulps were bought every month. It took the paper shortages of World War II to knock them down, and they were finished off by television in the ‘50s, but they left us a legacy of heroes that include Conan and Tarzan, cult favorite H.P. Lovecraft, and provided the seed that spawned science-fiction and fantasy.Return with me, now, to those thrilling days of yesteryear, with the help of Paul Malmont, who, according to his bio, works in advertising and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two kids.I'm firmly convinced that, at night, he slips out of his brownstone in Park Slope and roams the wilds of Manhattan, battling the forces of evil with mad crimefighting skillz he learned in the mountain fastnesses of Bhutan.Either that, or he's a pulp fiction fan who did a wonderful job of researching the era, and clever enough to cast as his heroes the writers Walter Gibson, Lester Dent, Hubbard (known as "The Flash" because he was quick at the typewriter), with guest appearances by Lovecraft (oh, how I want to tell you how he appears. It's so appropriate!), E.E. "Doc" Smith and Orson Welles.As for the story, well, the title gives it away, and I'm not going to say more. If you're going to read this, it would just spoil the fun. But if you're still on the bubble, I'll say this:
Malmont writes about the pulp fiction world, but the story is told straight. Neat. No purple prose.
The plot makes sense. It's creepy and scary, but doesn't rely on the supernatural.
The writers may have created two-fisted heroes, but they aren't. That's part of the fun.
Malmont plays fair with Hubbard. I'm no fan of Scientology, but I was glad that Hubbard is presented just as you would expect him to be at the beginning of his career. He's ambitious, proud, something of a blowhard, but great sidekick material.
To say more would give away the fun, so let me just say that, if you have any affection for the pulp era, if you smile at the thought of a "GalaxyQuest"-type story set in New York of the Depression-era, or just want a rousing tale without the literary baggage, check out "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril."UPDATE: Thanks to Kaja Foglio, the co-creator of the fabulous "Girl Genius" comic, I found out that Lester Dent's Zeppelin tales are being republished.

Paul Bishop
Michael Carlson
Bill Crider
Martin Edwards
Ray Foster
Libby Fischer Hellman
George Kelley
Randy Johnson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard
Todd Mason
Eric Peterson
Laurie Powers
Richard Prosch
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Kerrie Smith

Thursday, November 19, 2009

THE SUMMING UP, Friday, November 20, 2009

I had to leave home for the day so sorry I didn't get a chance to comment on most of your blogs. Thanks so much for the great list.

THE SUMMING UP, FRIDAY, November 20, 2009

Paul Bishop, The Jane Bond Adventures, Mable Marley
Michael Carlson, Box Nine, Jack O'Connell
Bii Crider, The Girl on the Best Seller List, Vin Packer
Martin Edwards, Victims, B.M. Gill
Ray Foster, The Schoolgirl Murder Case, Colin Wilson
Ed Gorman, A Memory of Murder, Ray Bradbury
Libby Fisher Hellman, The Staked Goat, Jeremiah Healy
Randy Johnson, Danger is My Line, Stephen Marlowe
George Kelley, The Forgotten Touch, Edward Hoch
Evan Lewis, Dead at the Take-off, Lester Dent
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, The Devil Rides Out, Dennis Wheatley
Todd Mason, SHORT STORY INTERNATIONAL, edited by Francesca Van der Ling, then Sylvia Tankel; ELLERY QUEEN'S ANTHOLOGY, edited by "Ellery Queen," Eleanor Sullivan, et al., and the MAGAZINE OF HORROR edited by Robert Lowndes.

Bill Peschel, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, Paul Malmont
Eric Peterson, The Curious Facts Preceding My Execution, Donald Westlake
Laurie Powers, Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett
Richard Prosch, Go For Your Gun, Coe Williams
James Reasoner, The Nick Adams Stories, Ernest Hemingway
Richard Robinson, Decoys, Richard Hoyt
Kerrie Smith, A Tasty Way to Die, Janet Laurence
R.T. A Garden of Vipers, Jack Kerley

Upcoming Dates Because I am Getting Confused

Monday, November 23rd: The TV Show I Love-for anyone who wants to encourage my devotion to old tv shows.

Monday. November 30th: Flash Fiction Challenge: Wal-Mart: I Love You.(I'll be posting a list of possible contributors soon since I am afraid I may have missed some people.

Friday, December 11th: Kid's Books Week-Doesn't have to be forgotten. Write about one you loved back then. Or now.

Friday, December 25th: No Forgotten Books. It's Christmas, you Scrooges!

Friday, January 1. I'll just post links for those who have them. It's my birthday!

Friday, January 22: Forgotten Music (Hat tip to Jay Stringer {Do Some Damage})

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Husband Wants to Know

My Favorite Cookbook and I must have made at least 50 recipes from here over the years-all good although a lot of ingredients in most of them.

What is your favorite cookbook?

Yes, I was dubious when he suggested this topic. I told him that most of the peopleI hang around with online are the hard-boiled types. Cooking is for sissies. But he insisted that men cook, women cook and most people collect cookbooks.
I told him I would probably only get a response or two and they'd all pick THE JOY OF COOKING or the Julia Child cookbook, But for better or worse, here it is. Show him you're well-rounded.

What is your favorite cookbook? It'll probably end up under the tree.

John McAuley has thought of a good tie-in to this subject and would like to encourage everyone to make a donation to their local food bank. Being from Michigan, we both are seeing the statistics of the number of people coming to them for help and it is alarming. Thank you, John, for thinking of this timely concern.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why are Network TV Crime Shows So Formulaic?

I know a lot of the people that stop by this blog are not TV watchers, but I need my hour or so each night because my eyes are shot.
What I wonder is: why the Big Three or Four Networks seems unable to make crime shows that don't quickly rely on a formula. Is it cheaper to do things the same way every week? Watch a show like Saving Grace and The Closer and you are never sure how the story will play out. It allows personal life to intervene, it takes detours. Starts in the middle. Ends with ambiguity. And I am not talking about shows with long arcs like Dexter or The Wire.
But watch one episode of a show like THE MENTALIST or CASTLE or the LAW and ORDER and CSI franchises and every show in the series will follow pretty much the same blueprint as the first. Why? Is it easier to write, cheaper to make, safer for your fanbase?
What network crime drama does best to avoid this? And why can comedies avoid stasis more adroitly? Does solving a crime put a chokehold on the writing?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Will the writing style of today give way to something else?

Every once in a while, I look at my WIP and think, I need more dialog. Nobody writes much narrative anymore. Show me, don't tell me.

But if I pick up a book from the past or even a non-crime book, there is a lot of narration. Sometimes I get tired of constant conversation. Tired of constant action. And long for that more restful style.

Will this current style of writing eventually fade, too? Will the new technologies with their emphasis on succinct expression take us in a new direction. Does a page of narration put you off? Sometime introspection is a good thing. Right?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Meanderings and Muses

Amy Sedaris reading.

Kaye Barley was kind enough to let me talk about Friday's Forgotten Books on Meanderings and Muses today.

Let me add this. FFB has allowed me to meet so many people I would never have met in "real" life. People I have something in common with--a love of books and even more broadly, stories.
I am very grateful and humble to have shared this love with so many.

And now I have to go put the glaze on the ham.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Playlist to Go Along with Hummingbirds

Josh (SIL) created a playlist to go along with his novel, HUMMINGBIRDS, right here.

I was unfamiliar with this site before now. The site is called LARGE-HEARTED BOY. I am also unfamiliar with almost all of the music. His idea of creating an eighties playlist would have been a different thing because I had kids listening to music 24-7 then.


have something to say about Publisher's Weekly Best List.

Which came from here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

THE SUMMING UP, Friday, November 13, 2009

George Bancroft reading.

The Summing Up, Friday, November 13, 2009

Mark Arsenault, The Mysterious Stranger, Mark Twain
Paul Bishop, The Venetian Affair, Helen MacInnes
Bill Crider, The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches, Fredric Brown
Jared Case, Die Dreaming, Terence Faherty
Mike Dennis, The Squeeze, Gil Brewer
Martin Edwards, Woman at Risk, Miles Tripp
Ray Foster (granddaughter) God's Little Acre, Erskine Caldwell
Ed Gorman, Loser Take All, Graham Greene
Randy Johnson, Clayburn, Al Conroy
George Kelley, The Silver Eggheads, Fritz Leiber
Evan Lewis, Sinful Woman, James Cain
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, Fire Burn, John Dickson Carr
Todd Mason, Living in Fear: A History of Horror in the Mass Media, Les Daniels
Jeff Meyerson, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons, Shirley Jackson
Eric Peterson, Trouble is What I Do, Rob Kantner
Laurie Powers, They Went Thataway, James Horwitz
James Reasoner, The Death Committee, Noah Gordon
Kerrie Smith, Killers at Large, Alfred Hitchcock
Kelli Stanley, Nightmare Alley, William Lindsay Gresham
Kieran Shea Our Word is Our Weapon: Selected Writings of Subcommandant Insugente Marcos
R.T. Terrorist, John Updike

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 13, 2009

Ed Gorman
is the author of THE MIDNIGHT ROOM and many other fine novels. You can find him here.

Ed Gorman: Loser Takes All, Graham Greene

I mean no disrespect when I say that I imagine Graham Greene conceived of Loser Takes All (one of his self-described "entertainments") as a film before he decided to write it as a short novella. It's big and colorful and hangs on two cunning twists that neatly divide the piece into curtain act one and curtain act two.

The story concerns the honeymoon of Mr. Bertram and his bethrothed Cary. They are planning to go on a modest short vacation when fate, in the the person of Dreuther, an incalculably rich man for whom Bertram is a lowly assistant accountant, intervenes. Bertram solves an accounting problem that nobody else in the incalculably vast corporation can figure out so Dreuther rewards him with the promise of a honeymoon on his yacht and nights of glamor in the casinos of Monte Carlo... Cary is thrilled.

Well, they go to Monte Carlo but soon learn that Dreuther has forgotten his promise. They are left to make do with their pitiful finances. They can't even pay their bills. Then Bertram, a math whiz, goes to a casino and tries out his own system for winning. And even more than that he begins to see how he can bring down Dreuther...

The rich men of the Fifties are perfect matches for the Wall Streeters of today. Their greed and lust is literally without bounds. Greene creates four distinctive scenes of black comedy when dealing with them. But even more, at the point when Cary sees her new husband change because of his winnings, Greene begins to examine the morality of greed. He also, in the midst of the action, gives us a painful subplot about adultery.

I was re-reading William Goldman's Adventure's In The Screen Trade the other and found this salute that I'd forgotten: "I think Graham Greene was the greatest novelist in English this century."

If you read Loser Takes All, you'll begin to see what Goldman was talking about.

Mark Arsenault i
s a Shamus-nominated mystery writer, a journalist, a runner, hiker, political junkie and eBay fanatic who collects memorabilia from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. His new novel is LOOT THE MOON, the second book in the Billy Povich series that began with GRAVEWRITER, a noir thriller praised for a fusion of suspense, humor and human tenderness. With 20 years of experience as a print reporter, Arsenault is one of those weird cranks who still prefers to read the news on paper. His Web site is:

The Mysterious Stranger, by Mark Twain (sort of)Mark Twain’s last book

The Mysterious Stranger, was considered so cynical it wasn’t published until 1916, six years after Twain’s death.

In the book, Satan’s nephew visits three kids in Austria in 1590, performs incredible miracles and exposes the hypocrisies of humanity. The story is an attack on organized religion, war and human nature.

Only decades later did researchers realize that Mark Twain never finished the novel—he wrote three distinct, unfinished versions—and that Twain’s biographer, Albert Paine, had combined the versions, changed some characters and wrote new material to stitch the story together.

For Twain fans and scholars, the revelation was like discovering that da Vinci never finished the Mona Lisa, and that somebody else had added the smile.

Twain’s aborted manuscripts were later published in original form. I’ve read the originals in addition to Paine’s 1916 mash-up, and I’d argue that the 1916 version should not be overlooked.

First, Paine’s biggest sin: Mark Twain’s vision for the story included a good priest framed for a crime by an evil priest. But Paine refused to allow a Catholic priest to be the villain, and inserted a new character—an astrologer—to do the dirty work.

But beyond that, Paine did what an editor should do—help a struggling writer shape the story. The writer in this case happened to be dead. Twain struggled the last 20 years of his life with the story. Large portions of his original three fragments are gawd-awful boring.

The version Paine produced is mostly Mark Twain. The story thick with the rage and despair Twain felt near the end of his life, after living long enough to bury his wife and three of his children. Yet there’s humor in the cynicism, as if Twain couldn’t help but be funny.

The book also contains my favorite Mark Twain quote, about the power of laughter. Twain puts this wisdom in the mouth of Satan’s nephew, though we can deduce that the “nephew” was in disguise, and that the words are from Satan himself. As he does throughout the story, in this passage Satan is complaining about humanity:

“For your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

You can find Mike Dennis here. He has a forthcoming novel THE TAKE, debuting in 2010.

THE SQUEEZE by Gil Brewer

A fortune in illicit cash, a sinister gambling joint operator, a gorgeous redhead, and enough double-crossing to last a lifetime…those are the building blocks of The Squeeze, a fast-moving novel by Gil Brewer.

Written in 1955, The Squeeze is centered around Joe Maule, a Chicago transplant to the southwest

Gulf Coast of Florida, the site of many Brewer tales. Joe is in debt to the tune of $12,000, a fortune at the time. He owes it to Victor Jarnigan, owner of a nearby illegal casino. Jarnigan, who has cheated Joe out of the money, has concocted a plan to allow him to clear his debt. All Joe has to do is get cozy with Caroline Shreves, local femme fatale.

According to Jarnigan, a stickup artist from years past had squirreled away nearly $300,000 from his jobs, before finally being executed for murder. Before dying, however, he told someone where the money was hidden. That someone was Ernest Lobb, who lives in a sprawling beachfront home with his wife Sara and her stepsister Caroline.

Sara is overweight and repulsive. She drinks gin and eats chocolates at seven in the morning, generally making life unbearable for everyone around her. Caroline, however, is eye-popping, and is given to hanging around local cocktail lounges on weeknights. Joe’s instructions are to develop a relationship with her, then get into the house and try to find out from Lobb where the money is. The stakes are high, as Jarnigan has promised Joe a long, agonizing death if he fails to turn up the cash.

Well, Joe gets tight with Caroline, all right, according to the plan, but he falls in too deep. As with most Brewer protagonists, he’s blinded by his lust for this alluring woman who knows all the moves.She appears to fall for him, too, and before you can say “Judas kiss”, the two of them are plotting to grab the money for themselves and split town.

Meanwhile, Jarnigan puts relentless pressure on Joe to locate the loot. He continually checks on him, and sends henchmen around to make sure he’s got his shoulder to the task. Through it all, Jarnigan is never far enough away for Joe to get comfortable.

Joe finally confronts Lobb and, after beating it out of him, learns where the money is kept. A few minutes later, Lobb commits suicide. Knowing that Jarnigan would never buy the story, Joe and Caroline get rid of the body, making it look like Lobb has left for good on his own.

Complicating matters is the fact that when Joe and Caroline go to retrieve the money, it’s gone.

Jarnigan’s patience wears thin, Sara hits on Joe, Caroline is insisting on finding the money no matter what, and the betrayals begin.

Time runs out on all the characters, as The Squeeze comes rushing to its inevitable climax. Brewer’s formula of lonely-guy-meets-beautiful-dish works again, thanks to clever variations in his theme. He pushes all the right buttons in this little noir gem, which unfortunately has been left in the dust of the last half-century.

Martin Edwards is a CWA Dagger Award winner and author of two series: one set in Liverpool and one in the Lake District. THE SERPENT POOL will be out in Feburary.

Woman at Risk, Miles Tripp

I’m fairly confident that few if any readers of this blog will be familiar with my latest entry in Patti Abbott’s series of Forgotten Books – even though it dates back only as far as 1974, and its author died just nine years ago, not too long after publishing his final novel. The book I’ve chosen is Woman at Risk, the author is Miles Tripp.

Tripp qualified as a solicitor after serving in the RAF during the war, and he produced no fewer than 37 novels, 14 of them featuring a private eye called John Samson. During the 1970s, I had a phase of enthusiasm for his work, and I’ve blogged previously about a very unusual novel of psychological suspense of his called Five Minutes with a Stranger.

Woman at Risk is very different, possibly unique, novel. I don’t want to say too much about its structure, because that would spoil some of the surprises in store for anyone who cares to read it. Suffice to say that it’s a short but clever novel, with a number of quite remarkable twists.

On the face of it, the story is about a rather selfish solicitor called Robert, whose wife mysteriously disappeared three years ago. He is a workaholic and his social life is confined to a regular Friday evening get-together in a pub with three other men. But he starts an affair with the wife of a client, and in the first few pages of the story, the woman dies in his house. In a panic, he decides to bury her body in a wood. Suffice to say that this is not a wise decision, and that his sins are bound to find him out. But what his sins are, and how they are found out, are questions to which few readers will guess the answers at an early stage of this ingenious narrative.

There’s just a hint of Boileau and Narcejac about some of the melodramatic aspects of this novel, and I really enjoyed devouring it. I picked up my copy by chance from a catalogue issued by that very good bookseller, Jamie Sturgeon of Littlehampton. I was attracted by Tripp’s inscription in this copy to a policeman friend. He says that ‘Anglia TV bought the TV rights of this book but couldn’t get a suitable script written.’ This puzzled me, until I realised how the complexity of the story might well defeat a script writer. To find out what I mean, you’ll have to read the book – but if you do, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Jeff Meyerson has been a member of DAPA-EM for over 30 years and published an early fanzine in pre-computer days called (way before the bookstore/publisher of the same name existed) The Poisoned Pen. I was a mail order book dealer, specializing in secondhand British mystery and detective fiction. I've read thousands of mysteries since 1970.

Shirley Jackson, Life Among the Savages (1953) and Raising Demons (1957).

Anyone who has gone through high school in this country is undoubtedly familiar with Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," surely one of the most widely read and aught short stories of the last half century. Fans of supernatural and horror fiction probably know her The Haunting of Hill House or one of its two movie adaptations, the first of which was one of the best horror movies ever.
Not many, however, are aware of her other persona as the Erma Bombeck of her time. Despite what the titles might suggest, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons are not horror novels. Rather they are often hilarious and memorable tales of Jackson's life with her husband trying to raise her four young children.
Even though it's been thirty years since I first read them, there are still stories I remember vividly, including her oldest son Laurie's tales from kindergarten and the antics of bad boy "Charles." Jackson can't wait until open school night to get a look at this monster, only to learn...well, it's worth reading for yourself. Another incident comes when her husband (literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman) decides they need a car and she is the one who will have to learn to drive. Perhaps taking the children along was not the best idea.
These stories were originally published as short stories in various women's magazines of the day and can easily best read episodically. If you need a laugh you could do much worse.

Jared Case is a graduate of The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and the Head of Cataloging for the motion picture collection of the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. He is the curator of the film noir series that runs in January and February at the Dryden Theater and is, himself, a “pre-published” author. You can read his thoughts on film noir, crime fiction, kooky criminals and local authors at A Case of Murder (

DIE DREAMING, Terence Faherty

Owen Keane is the perfect example of a character that illuminates the prosaic by highlighting the idiosyncratic. His background is like no other: On a religious retreat between his junior and senior years in high school he came across a boy who claimed he could talk to God. When this claim was proven a deceit, his faiths were shaken: his faith in God, his faith in Man, and his faith in The Truth. This event was never far from him, and his crises of faith were internalized, affecting his belief in God, his belief in himself, and his belief in his ability to find the truth. Hoping to tackle all of these crises simultaneously, he abandoned Mary, the woman who would be the love of his life, and entered the seminary. When his failure at the seminary coincided with Mary’s abandonment of him for his college roommate, Harold Ohlman, Owen began to wander, doing odd menial jobs, and ending up in a liquor store. In a fit of pique, he attended his tenth high school reunion under the guise of a private investigator, and Owen Keane, the amateur detective was born.
This backstory is specific enough to be unique, and yet the sum is the same for many of us. Our lives have been an accumulation of events that led us to question the world around us. And to this end, Owen Keane has many of the same investigative tools we all do. As a fan mystery fiction and mystery film, Owen has been indoctrinated into all the tropes and clich├ęs of the detective’s process. His experience is our experience as he references Dashiell Hammett, or Nero Wolfe, or Double Indemnity. This makes him acutely self-aware of his place in the genealogy of detective fiction, but the broad shoulders he stands on don’t prevent him from jumping to the wrong conclusion or following a lead because he hopes it to be true. His failings are our failings, even as his cynical, self-deprecating exterior belies an underlying belief in the goodness of men and women, and the belief that he will be able to effect positive change through the search for truth.
In fact, his currency is truth. Rarely does he get paid for his services, and even then it only covers expenses. But if he can uncover the truth, not necessarily for himself, and not even necessarily for the victim, it adds to a growing tapestry of truth, something that he can point to as a basis for a belief in his ability to find the truth, which supports a belief in himself and in mankind, which holds up the possibility of a belief in the existence and effectiveness of God, despite the fact that faith requires neither proof nor support. Yet this is what drives him to toil in the long shadows of Sam Spade, Nick Charles and Travis McGee.
DIE DREAMING, the fourth book in Terence Faherty’s “Owen Keane” series, is perhaps the best, taking this mystery-fan/faith-in-crisis context and grafting it onto a mystery story that inverts the mystery story expectation of beginning-middle-end. Owen Keane, 28 and feeling a bit of a failure, decides to play a self-deprecating joke on his high school classmates, The Sorrowers, by running an ad for the Owen Keane Detective Agency in the 10th reunion program. But one of The Sorrowers is a jokester herself and sets up a fake mystery to lure Owen into an embarrassing situation. Owen falls for the ruse, but is saved by another classmate. In the meantime, however, a true mystery surfaces when loose lips mention an event that was suppressed 10 years ago and that tied The Sorrowers together in a code of secrecy. Owen’s investigation stumbles along, following false leads and shaky assumptions, but his dogged determination does eventually reveal the truth. It also reveals that there are as many victims as perpetrators, and in the end Owen decides that the truth, now discovered, is sometimes better left buried.
This decision comes into question 10 years later when one of The Sorrowers turns up dead. Owen must come to terms with his responsibility in the death and determine whether the truth did come out, and if someone would kill to keep it hidden. His investigation takes him back to his hometown and his 20th high school reunion. He starts to look at The Sorrowers and the mysterious event that took place 20 years ago, but he has to take into account the changes that have taken place in the last 10 years, when the end of his last investigation became the beginning of this new crime. He discovers that relationships are even more complex than they appeared, and that crimes can have implications generations removed from the original event itself.
There is no better feeling than finding a piece of art that resonates with you, unless you get to share that discovery with someone else. Terence Faherty and Owen Keane were such a discovery for me, and I hope that, by sharing the discovery with you, they will pass from the realms of the forgotten.

Paul Bishop
Bill Crider
Ray Foster's Grandaughter
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard
Todd Mason
Eric Peterson
Laurie Powers
James Reasoner
Kieran Shea
Kerrie Smith
Kelli Stanley