Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Night Movie Music

This is a brief discussion of how they created the sound track for THE DESCENDANTS. Having no experience with Hawaiian music-other than the idea it was all about doing a hula, I was very much taken with what real Hawaiian music was like.

Anyone out there a fan of this sort of music?

Forgotten Movies: Rich Man, Poor Man

RICH MAN, POOR MAN was one of the great miniseries from the mid 70s. A great villain, Falconetti (William Smith), is seen here and it launched the career of Nick Nolte, bad boy with a heart of gold.
This is the saga of the Jordache family, from the end of the war through the 1960s.
Peter Strauss is Rudy Jordache and Nick Nolte, his brother, Tom. Susan Blakely played the girl they both loved.

Based on the book by Irwin Shaw this was water cooler TV in 1976 for a couple of months.
I am not sure if I would have chosen Nolte as the actor from RMPM to parlay his role into a great acting career, but women loved him. Peter Strauss and Blakely seem to have largely disappeared except for occasional guest appearances on network TV. For more forgotten movies, see Todd Mason.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Night Humor

Arsenic and Old Lace

Friday, January 27, 2012

THE SUMMING UP, FRIDAY, January 20, 2012

THE SUMMING UP, FRIDAY, January 20, 2012

Sergio Angelini A CLUBBABLE WOMAN (1970) by Reginald Hill

Yvette Banek Hag's Nook (1933) by John Dickson Carr

Brian Busby A Bullet for My Lady by Bernard Mara [pseud. Brian Moore]

Bill Crider Destinies Edited by Jim Baen

Martin Edwards The Bleston Mystery by Robert Milward Kennedy (Milward Kennedy and A.G. Macdonell)

Jerry House The Angry Planet (1945) and The Red Journey Back (1954, also published as SOS from Mars) by John Keir Cross

Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen Consequences of Sin by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Cullen Gallagher Whisper His Sin by Vin Packer

Ed Gorman: A House In Naples by Peter Rabe

Randy Johnson See Them Die by Ed McBain


Margot Kinberg Bad Move by Linwood Barclay

Rob Kitchin The Dead Detective by William Heffernan

B.V. Lawson The Grey Flannel Shroud by Henry Slesar

Evan Lewis: Spartan Planet by A. Bertram Chandler

Steve Lewis hosting Marcia Muller: Paint the Town Black by David Alexander

Brian Lindenmuth: Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet

Todd Mason: Bob Shaw: MESSAGES FOUND IN AN OXYGEN BOTTLE and Terry Carr: BETWEEN TWO WORLDS http://socialistjazz.blogspot.com/2012/01/ffb-bob-shaw-messages-found-in-oxygen.html

J.F. Norris: Do Not Disturb by Helen McCloy

Eric Peterson: Zeppelins West By Joe R. Landsale

Thomas Pluck: Fast One by Paul Cain

David Rachels: Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy

James Reasoner: The Bamboo Bomb by James Dark (J.E. MacDonnell)

Karyn Reeves: Loving by Henry Green http://apenguinaweek.blogspot.com/2012/01/penguin-no-958-loving-by-henry-green.html

Richard Robinson: Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle

Gerard Saylor: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Ron Scheer: William Lacey Amy, The Blue Wolf

Kerrie Smith COLOUR SCHEME, Ngaio Marsh

Kevin Tipple: The Maya Stone Murders by M. K. Shuman

TomCat: Manly Wade Wellman's Find My Killer

Thanks to Todd!!!!

Re: Our Radio Discussion of a Few Days Past

The Internet Archive http://archive.org is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. It is a huge resource of OTR (Old Time Radio) & other materials. You'll find Westerns, Mysteries, & Lux Radio Theatre recordings to name a few. All able to be downloaded or listened to from the site. It's worth listening top & viewing

F. Thorsen
owner, Chronicles of Crime, your mystery bookshop, Victoria, BC, Canada

Thanks so much to F. Thorsen for this valuable information!

The link doesn't work but if you put www.archive.org in google, you should find it.

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 27, 2012

My review of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY is up at Crimespree Cinema.

Since I can't turn my head, the SUMMING UP will come as permitted.

Ed Gorman is the author of the Sam McCann mysteries as well as those about political consultant, Dev Conrad. He also edits anthologies and writes westerns. You can find him

Ed Gorman: A House In Naples by Peter Rabe

Whenever I read Peter Rabe at his best--or hell, even when he's mediocore--I realize how bogus a lot of hardboiled fiction is. Raymond Chandler likely learned about crime from the pulps and B-movies. As did many pulp writers.

Today we tart things up in a way previous hardboiled writers didn't and that gives it a semblance of reality anyway. Or we parody it and that makes us feel superior to it. Nothing wrong with these approaches, either. They're entertaining, amusing, fun.

Maybe it was because Rabe approached his writing as mainstream instead of genre. While he honors the tropes set down by W.R. Burnett and his imitators Rabe's crime novels are idiosyncratic, sometimes to a fault. In a few books he wanders, gets lost, and it's always because he wants to tell us something fascinating but not germane to the story. I actually enjoy his side trips but they do damage a couple of his books.

A House in Naples is about two people who are pretty much despicable, deserters at the end of the big war who run a black market operation. They aren't much better morally than Graham Greene's Harry Lime. Charley and Joe they are, friends in greed. They are living in Naples and living well. But Charley doesn't have his papers and could get extradited. Uncle Sam is not looking favorably on deserters these days.

As the book opens Charley is wounded and recognized for who and what he is. He ends stealing the papers from a dying drunk and then ends up dragging the body into the Tiber to cover his tracks. But by this time his wound has taken his toll. He is barely concious when he looks up and sees a beautiful girl staring down at him from the bridge above. He falls in love. Rabe gives this unlikely moment an ethereal power that few others could have pulled off. You buy it.

The book is a fast, sure read and the ending is a shocker. But the characters and Rabe's observations on post-war Europe are the source of the book's rich bleakness. The bleakness is very much like the realist filmmakers who appeared in Italy right after the war.

Rabe uses The Girl to contrast Charley and Joe. In some respects she's almost a religious figure, a woman who can evoke good or evil in everyone she meets. She evokes what's in you already.

For some reason A House in Naples isn't mentioned as often as Rabe's other most successful novels. But its harsh poetry and exciting action will keep it in memory long after you're

Serge Angellini
Yvette Banek
LinkBrian Busby
Bill Crider
Martin Edwards
Jerry House
Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen
Cullen Gallagher
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
Margot Kinberg
Rob Kitchin
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/Marcia Muller
Brian Lindenmuth
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris
Eric Peterson
Thomas Pluck
David Rachels
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple

Thursday, January 26, 2012


We saw this one in London in 1995. This was not the playbill.

It starred Miriam Margoyles as Sister George, a beloved soap opera character who is about to meet her end. She is also losing her young lover (Serena Evans). The play was written by Frank Marcus and he writes in the bill of the difficulty in mounting a play about lesbians on its first run in the sixties. The word lesbians was never mentioned.

This was not meant to be a tragedy though. It was a black comedy about the irony of a beloved soap opera character being a monster in real life. Sister George is offered a voice over of a cow in recompense. A bit mean that. There is also a film version of this story.

My memory of it is vague--as is so often the case.

Did John Boy Walton Influence Your Desire to Write?

Here is a great interview about the pervasive influence of THE WALTONS on American culture. Nigel Bird's brother made this radio show in the UK.

I doubt I missed an episode of THE WALTONS when it first played. One reason was it was one of the few shows that took the desire to be a writer (or a musician, or a doctor, or a aviator) seriously.

The show managed to be authentic without being sentimental to me. Nostalgic yes, but not saccharine. It did deal with issues of the time and often in subtle ways. Family values yes, but not inhumane attitudes to others. It was tolerant of others as Elizabeth tells us in this interview.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Closing the Book, Then Opening it Again

I just finished MEMORY by Donald Westlake for our FFB Westlake Day and I felt like reading it again. Anything I pick up next can never measure up.

Boy, did he ever get it right from first word to last. What was the last book you felt like doing that with? A book where you wanted to experience those words again immediately?

Nostalgia Index

If 10 indicates you are consumed with memories of the past, and zero represents the past is dead to you, where would you put yourself on the scale and what in particular ties you to the past? Or doesn't.

I'd say 6.5. And it would be memories of old movies, books and TV shows rather than people or places.

Phil picks 3. I'd better not leave the room.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Night Music: Tears for Fears

Classic Connivers

In Downton Abbey, O'Brien and Thomas conspire and connive to turn various characters against each other. I both love and loathe connivers. In life, they make me nervous, of course, but in a rather tepid episode of DA, they liven things up. Of course, they always stand in the way of true love.

In Julius Caesar, Cassius convinces Brutus to participate in a conspiracy. I think there are probably connivers in most of Shakespeare's plays.

In crime fiction, are there any famous connivers? Surely there must be.

Forgotten Movies: Will Penny

Will Penny (Charleston Heston) plays a man hired to police another man's land. Joan Hackett plays a woman squatting in the cabin he's provided with. Great cast, great scenery in a classic Western. Loved Hackett. She died too young.

Sorry to be brief, but still wrestling with this cold. For more forgotten movies, check with Todd Mason.

Monday, January 23, 2012

On the Radio

Ron Scheer suggested that I ask if anyone remembers listening to westerns on the radio. I might expand that a bit to ask if anyone remembers listening to any dramas on the radios. I don't although I have heard an excerpt here on there. Anyone remember radio dramas?


El Gavilan: How I Came To Write This Book

By Craig McDonald

My first four novels were historical thrillers. They feature a 20th Century author and globetrotter named Hector Lassiter. The Lassiter books span many decades and continents.

My new novel, El Gavilan, is more contemporary and hits closer to home: it’s set, more or less, in the central Ohio town where I grew up.

In the 1990s, the Buckeye State began to undergo a sea change triggered by waves of illegal immigration.

The America southwest grabs all the national media attention with its insanely over-the-top cartel violence, self-appointed “Minute Men” roaming the desert with guns and calls for construction of Berlin-reminiscent, soaring border walls.

Fact is, exploitation of illegal workers, human trafficking and all the strife spinning out of the Mexican methamphetamine trade know no boundaries.

As a county sheriff declares to El Gavilan’s presumptive hero, small town police chief Tell Lyon, in a very real sense, “The border is now everywhere.”

As a central Ohio journalist, I saw communities changing as native Ohioans and assimilation-resistant undocumented workers and their families grudgingly struggled to strike some kind of live-and-let-live balance, mostly unsuccessfully.

I experienced this nexus of intimations:

An illegal cockfighting ring was broken up a few miles from my hometown.

In that same Westside enclave, a former blue-collar neighborhood of GM factory workers, nearly all of the signage was suddenly of a decidedly Spanish bent. The local library was scrambling to accommodate a growing population of English-As-Second-Language patrons.

On the opposite side of a looming overpass, an apartment complex became a target of arson. It proved to be a racially motivated firebombing. Lives were lost in that fire…mostly those of children.

The fallout came in many dark flavors and it came down hard. The residents of the complex, recent immigrants to Columbus, had no English. First-responders spoke no Spanish. The controversy spinning out of that case drew national attention.

A few counties away, word came of a sheriff who chose to use his slice of post-9-11, Homeland Security grants not to update radio equipment or to obtain bomb-sniffing dogs as so many others were doing.

This lawman instead bought up billboard space and posted warning messages directed at illegal immigrants. He sent bills to the federal government demanding reimbursement of jail costs his department sustained resulting from the feds’ failure to exercise adequate border enforcement.

All of these developments conspired to inspire El Gavilan. They also suggested the character of conservative hardliner and Horton County Sheriff Able Hawk.

My notion was to take a damaged Border Patrol agent, a man literally running from borderland grief and bloody cartel violence—a grieving recent widower—and drop him into this maelstrom…to confront him with Hawk.

Tell Lyon accepts the appointment to the position of small town police chief expecting to have a kind of Mayberry-like ride. Tell arrives in New Austin, Ohio, expecting to sort out nothing more serious than some drunk and disorderly hi-jinks…family dramas and little traumas of shoplifting and teens using fake I.D.s to try and buy cigarettes or the like.

It’s a miscalculation Tell comes to rue. He lands in town just in time for the murder of a local Latino woman—a brutal crime that triggers a firestorm of unexpected menace and threatens to trigger a race war.

It’s a cliché to say some novels read as if they were ripped from the headlines.

Clichés become clichés, as journalist-turned-author Ian Fleming once observed, because they’re typically so curiously valid.

In the case of El Gavilan, the novel is indeed ripped from the headlines, but they were headlines I sometimes wrote.

Craig McDonald is a novelist and journalist whose first novel, Head Games, set along the Mexican borderlands, was a finalist for numerous literary awards in the United States and France. His new novel, El Gavilan, is available from Tyrus Books. Visit his website at craigmcdonaldbooks.com

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Night Humor: Seinfeld

Are You the Best Judge of Your Writing?

I' m not . Some of the stories I thought were winners, took time to place. And others, ones I thought were weak, did not.

Some of the stories I got the most positive feedback about, I almost didn't send out.

For instance THE PERFECT DAY, which several people cited as a favorite story of last year recently seemed too tame to count as a crime story.

I wondered if people would have the patience to spend the day with this family. If they could wait around to see what the problem was.

Does this happen to you? Are you a good judge of your own work? If you had to name the best thing you've written, would the rest of us agree?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Night Music: Kalena Kai

Happy Anniversary to the World's Best Husband

Forty-five years ago, a nineteen year old girl and a twenty-two year old boy got married. Our courtship was short and we really didn't know each other the way couples today seem to after prolonged relationships. He was beginning graduate school and in those days, that was a good reason to get married--so we wouldn't be separated. We both like to read, see movies. That seemed like enough at nineteen.

Phil has never said a mean word to me. Not once. I have never gone to bed angry, sad or worried about anything to do with him. He has been my biggest bolster, my best friend. When people comment on the success of our marriage, it is truly because of Phil, the biggest blessing in my life. I am just the free rider on this journey.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Summing Up, January 20, 2012 followed by Music to Rest To;Erik Satie

The Summing Up, Friday, January 20, 2012

Patti Abbott, The Tree of Hands, Ruth Rendell
Serge Angellini, Fallen Angel, Howard Fast
Yvette Banek, The Case of the Constant Suicides, John Dickson Carr
Brian Busby, Masters of Time. E. Van Vogt
Bill Crider, Somewhere a Voice, Eric Frank Russell
Scott Cupp, The Coachman Rat, David Henry Wilson
Martin Edwards, Dorothy and Agatha, Gaylord Larson
Cullen Gallagher, Wake Up, Little Suzie, Ed Gorman
Ed Gorman, American Cinema, Andrew Sarris
Jerry House, The Marcot Deep and Other Stories, Arthur Conan Doyle
Randy Johnson, Queens Full, Ellery Queen
George Kelley, Almuric, Robert E. Howard
Margot Kinberg, Garnethill, Denise Mina
Rob Kitchin, Storm Front, Jim Butcher
K.A. Laity, If You Want to Write, Brenda Uelang
B.V. Lawson, She Shall Have Murder, Delano Ames
Evan Lewis, The Three Musketeers (2006) Alexander Dumas
Steve Lewis, Bad Man's Reutrn, William Colt MacDonald
Todd Mason, Dr. Holmes' Murder Castle, Rober Bloch
J.F. Norris, Benefit Performance, Richard Sale
Eric Peterson, The List of 7, Mark Frost
David Rachels, The Tease, Gil Brewer
James Reasoner, The Time Traders, Andre Norton
Richard Robinson, A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle
Gerard Saylor, Fallen, T. Jefferson Parker
Ron Scheer, Told in the Hills, Marah Ellis Ryan
Kerrie Smith, A Box of Tricks, Simon Brett
Kevin Tipple. Barry Ergang, Drum Beat-Dominique, Stephen Marlowe
TomCat, Murder on the Way, Theodore Roscoe

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, January 20, 2012

Due to a nasty cold, it may be a day or so before I get the SUMMING UP, up.

My review of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO appears in Crimespree Cinema.

Ed Gorman is the author of the Sam McCann series of mysteries. You can find him here.

The American Cinema by Andrew Sarris

Ed here: I'm going through some health problems which is why I haven't been posting the last few nights. I'm feeling better but the issues haven't been resolved as yet.

Forgotten Books: The American Cinema by Andrew Sarris

There was a time in my life, college age and maybe a decade after, when I took Andrews Sarris' opinions of American films and American filmmakers pretty much as gospel. Times and people change. I bought a copy in a dime bin and looked through it and realized that it is in fact a rather pedantic and downright goofy survey of American films.

Sarris sensibly enough divides his opinions into chapters with headings such as Pantheon Directors, The Far Side of Paradise and Less Than Meets The Eye and so on. Hard to disagree with his Pantheon which includes Keaton, Chaplin, Ford, Ophuls and so on. With one exception that is. He includes Fritz Lang in the Pantheon and then in Less Than Meets The Eye dumps on Billy Wilder. What? There are few directors who have captured their AMERICAN time better than Wilder. The Lost Weekend, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Ace In The Hole, The Seven Year Itch, Some Like It Hot,The Apartment...I take nothing away from Lang, though his self-mythologizing got tiresome. He is certainly a major director. But as far as serious accomplishments go...Lang but not Wilder in this so-called Pantheon?

He also dumps on, among others, Robert Aldrich, Robert Wise, Nicholas Ray, Preston Sturges and Anthony Mann--good sometimes but not good enough for the Pantheon. Really? Preston Sturges not as "good" as Ernest Lubitsch? Not even Sturges would have claimed he was. And Wilder doesn't belong even on this list?

Sarris is at his most readable when he deals with directors he considers sub-human. Peckinpah, Roger Corman, Curtis Harrington and Ida Lupino. He has cordial fun with them and sees merit in their assumed irrelevance.

But unfortunately then it's back to the pot shots. Under the Heading "Strained Seriousness" we have...Stanley Kubrick? Really Stanley Kubrick?

Be warned: You'll neeed a lot of Prozac for this one. And your dental bill will shoot up because of all your teeth gnashing.'

In 1985, Ruth Rendell was nominated twice for best novel of the year by the MWA. The Edgar went to THE SUSPECT by L.R. Wright, but the two Rendell books must be a record. Was anyone else every nominated twice for best book in the same year? The two books were AN UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS and THE TREE OF HANDS. In those days, I read every Rendell as it came out (library copies though).

In THE TREE OF HANDS, a young, divorced mother loses her two-year old child to a sudden illness. Her mother, a victim of some sort of mental illness, finds a replacement: a child abused by his own mother. At first, the young mother thinks the child must be returned but when she finds burns and other signs of abuse, she goes along with it and bonds with the child. This is page turner by any standard. Rendell was so brilliant, especially early on and especially with her standalones.

Sergei Angellini
Yvette Banek
Brian Busby
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Cullen Gallagher
Jerry House
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
Margot Kinberg
Rob Kitchin
K.A. Laity
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris
Eric Peterson
David Rachels
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Life at the Theater: Sideman

I saw SIDEMAN twice. The first time was in New York at the John Golden Theater in 1999 with Andrew McCarthy, Michael O'Keefe and Kevin Geer. It concerns the life of a jazz trumpet player, but one who never achieved stardom. It also concerned his failures as a a husband and father.

It was on Broadway for almost two years.

I saw in again in 2006 at the Hilberry Theater in Detroit.

I can't remember being that taken with it the first time, but we probably had season tickets at the Hilberry that year.

Brought Up on Tales

Bill Crider said the other day that he was brought up on tales of the Alamo. Were you brought up on tales? Was there a lot of oral story telling in your home? There was almost none in mine. My parents were not story tellers--even their own stories.

I wonder if story-telling is a Southern thing. Or a ethnic thing. Or a family thing.

My German-Scots-Irish, Pennsylvania background elicited very few stories.

If your family were story tellers, what kind of story did they tell? Family ones? Ones about the area you lived in? Historical stories? I am envious. Tell me your story.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday Night Music: Wilco

Retail v. Online

We had two things to buy: a pair of dress slacks for Phil; a moisturizer for me. Several shopping trips did not yield these items. The cosmetic counter at Macy's was always undermanned; the rows of black dress slacks spread throughout the store. His size never seemed to turn up.

I hate cosmetic stores because someone grabs you and before you know it the moisturizer has turned into a bunch of stuff or you're sitting in chair like the prize pig at the county fair.

And who wants to go into store after store looking for black dress pants.

Yesterday, I went online and in ten minutes ordered both items at a lesser price, with no shipping costs or tax. They had Phil's exact size; the cosmetic company threw in a gift for my $35 purchase.

Now how can brick and mortar compete with this? I hate this. I hate that online retailers are get such a break. But dang where is the upside of brick and mortar.

Would like to remind everyone of Gerald So's 5-2 Poetry Weekly where I read a very fine sestina by Kiberly Potevin this week.

Forgotten Movies: LORD LOVE A DUCK

This is one of those crazy movies from the mid-sixties that didn't make much sense but featured Tuesday Weld, who was always fun to watch and lots of music and mid- sixties stuff. This was the sixties that was all fun and games--not the real sixties that came right after.

Roddy McDowell is playing a high school student even though the actor was then in his mid-thirties. The cast is just crazy with Lola Albright, Ruth Gordan and so on. The plot is basically that Roddy is a magician and can get pretty Tuesday whatever her heart desires.

If you want a snapshot of that era, you could do worse than this because it's pretty snappy all told For more movie reviews, see Todd Mason.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Favorite TV Western

Although some on the list came and went in a flash or might not be true westerns, Wikipedia lists 180 since the fifties.


Butch with his henchman, Worm in OUR GANG. Or THE LITTLE RASCALS.

Who are some of the best henchmen in movies? Certain actors specialized in playing the muscle. But sometimes it's a pathway to something better. For instance, Arnold S. played a henchman in Altman's THE LONG GOODBYE. And Martin Landau specialized in them early on (North by Northwest and many TV shows)

Who else? Did Bogart begin as a henchman? Here are some of the best.

Who did you like most as the muscle?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Night Humor; THE COSBY SHOW


I was reading some Lorrie Moore stories today and it occurred to me that I would have to name her as one of my biggest influences in learning (if I did) how to write a short story. There are many others, of course, but she's a definite mentor, or inspiration might be a better term. I see things in her writing, I tried to carry into mine.

Who are your greatest short story writing influences? Who did you read and admire before picking up a pen? Who made you think you could do it? Who were you in sync with in terms of style, character and plot?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday Night Music: Patti Smith

Anders Engwall sends us this from Sweden (via you tube). Thanks!

My review of MI-GHOST PROCOL in on Crimespree Cinema.

Your Favorite Spy Novel

We just saw TINKER, TAILOR. SOLDIER, SPY, which we loved. It was so well done-from the smallest detail on up. The grimy, cheesy sixties- seventies never looked worse. But they make a swell setting for a spy drama.

What is your favorite spy novel? Or a few of them.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Summing Up, Friday, January 13, 2012

Young Adult is reviewed on Crimespree Cinema.

I feel like there are lots of typos here. I will be back at nine to correct. Someone once told me not to learn to type too well or I would be consigned to a life of typing for men.
I was anyway but wish my fingers could keep up with my brain. Adios, amigos. Off to see TTSS.

The Summing Up, Friday, January 13, 2012

Patti Abbott, Devil in a Blue Dress, Walter Mosley
Sergio Angelini, The Origin of Evil, Ellery Queen
Yvette Banek, Bodies in a Bookshop, R. T. Campbell
Joe Barone, Back Story, Robert P. Parker
Brian Busby, Mr. Gumble Sits Up, Douglas Durkin
Bill Crider, The Vortex Blister, ed. Sam Moskowitz
Scott Cupp, Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable, J.A. Di Matteis & Mike Plong
Martin Edwards, End Game, Richard F. Stewart
Ed Gorman, How Like an Angel, Margaret Millar
Randy Johnson, Mountain Man, Robert E. Howard
George Kelley, The Swordsman of Mars and Outlaw of Mars, Otis Adelbert Kline
Margot Kinberg, The Deep Blue Goodbye, John D. MacDonald
Rob Kitchin, In a Lonely Place, Dorothy Hughes
B.V. Lawson, Spence at Marlky Manor, Michael Allen
Evan Lewis, The Crooking FInger, Clive F. Adams
Steve Lewis, Mourn the Hangman, Harry Whittington
Todd Mason, PITFCS: The Proceedings of the Institute for 21st Century Studies, Theodore R. Cogswell,
Terrie Moran, Separate Cases, Robert Randisi
J.F. Norris, The Mummy Case Murder, Dermot Morrah
Eric Peterson, Shoot, Douglas Fairbarn
J. Kingston Pierce, The Commissioner, Richard Dougherty
David Rachels, The Diamond Bikini, Charles Williams
James Reasoner, Rapture Alley, Whit Harrison (Harry Whittington)
Gerard Saylor, The Yiddish Policeman's Union, Michael Chabon
Ron Scheer, Babe Murphy, Patience Stapleton
Kerrie Smith, Murder at the Savoy, Sjowall and Wahloo
Kevin Tipple Dance on His Grave, Sylvia Dickens Smith
TomCat, Footprints, Kay Cleaver Strahan

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, January 13, 2012

February 17 is going to be DONALD WESTLAKE DAY in honor of his last book, THE COMEDY IS FINISHED debuting from Hard Case Crime. If anyone who doesn't usually do a review on Fridays would like to join in, just let me know. It would be fun to have as many of his books reviewed as possible.

I do urge anyone who loves the short story to join us in trying to read 365 short stories this year. You can find the site here.

Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad series and the Sam McCain series, both thoroughly enjoyable. You can find him here.

How Like an Angel by Margaret Millar

I've always held the opinion that some writers are just too good for the mass market. This is a true of a number of literary writers but it's also true of at least one writer of crime fiction, the late Margret Millar. For all her many deserved awards, she never became the enormous commercial success she deserved to be.

For me she's the single most elegant stylist who ever shaped a mystery story. You revel in her sentences. She used wit and dark humor in the direst of novels long before it was fashionable in the genre. And she was a better (and much fairer) bamboozler than Agatha Christie.

I recently reread her How Like and Angel and its richness, its darkness, its perverse wit make me repeat what I've said many times before--if this isn't the perfect mystery novel, it comes damned close.

The story, complex as it becomes, is simple in its set-up. Private eye Joe Quinn, having gambled away all his money, begins hitchiking from Reno to Caifornia. Along the way he sees the Tower, the symbol of a religious cult that eventually offers him not only shelter but a chance to put his skills to use. Sister Blessing asks him to find a man named Patrick O'Gorman. The man is dead. Which makes Quinn suspicious of why they want him located.

Among its many pleasures is the way this novel, published in the early sixties, anticipates some of the fringe cults that would grow out of the flower power days. There's more than a touch of ole Charlie Manson in the Tower.

I've always argued that the traditional mystery can be used for purposes other than simply whodunit. Here Millar gives us a great novel of character, a wry and not unkind look at people drawn to cults and a dark stunning story of forged lives.

Patti Abbott-DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, Walter Mosley

Sometimes I think we are too cavalier at FFB about remembering books that became classics of a sort but are still growing old. I am embarrassed to say that the first crime fiction book I read featuring a black detective was DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS by Walter Mosley. I have read several more of his books, but this one will stay with me because it introduced such a great character and his sidekick and also the novelty of bringing the story forward by leaps and bounds with each new book. He is also a terrific writer who deserves more acclaim.

Devil in a Blue Dress appeared in 1990. The story begins with Easy Rawlins, our future detective, out-of-work and unable to pay his mortgage. He's offered a job finding a young woman named Daphne Monet, a white woman known to frequent African-American bars.

Nothing is what it initially seems and with the help of his friend, Mouse, Easy navigates some dangerous terrain. He is the perfect character, easy to like but suitably flawed.

Although I know Chester Himes wrote well before Mosley, this was my first experience with a black detective and Mosley was, and is, so skilled at capturing the times, the people, and serving up a darn good plot.

Yvette Banek
Joe Barone
Brian Busby
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
Margot Kinberg
Rob Kitchin
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis
Todd Mason
Terrie Moran
J.F. Norris
Eric Peterson
J. Kingston Pierce
David Rachels
James Reasoner
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple
Tipping My Fedora

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Life at the Theater: World of Wonders

Every year at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford Ontario, they perform one play (at least) from a Canadian writer.

Robertson Davies, although he looks like a nineteenth century writer in this picture, only died a few years ago. He is perhaps, with the exception of Munro, Atwood and Richler, my favorite Canadian writer. His work is both humorous and erudite. He was a master at large casts and large plots-perhaps a bit like Dickens.

In 1992, the playwright Elliott Hayes developed Davies' Deptford Trilogy for the stage. It was not a very successful production. Davies' work is so laden with characters and events and locales that cramming them into a two-hour play was probably impossible. And the stage at the Avon Theater, before the reconstruction above, did not do it any favors. We also had bad seats.

But despite these caveats, I wouldn't have missed it for the world because parts of it still remain with me two decades later. I highly recommend the trilogy if you want to read Davies. But any of his many books will be a treat.

Flash Mobs

I am sad that flash mobs disappeared before I got to be in one. Or even got to see one in person. It really appealed to me on every level: spectacle, surprise, dancing. What more could you want?

I also wanted to say "you go, girl" once before it became passe. Didn't happen.

Don't you hate it when something goes away that quickly. Were zoot suits a one-week wonder? I know Nehru Jackets were.

What fad really spoke to you despite its quick demise?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Surprise-- I Wrote a Mini-Romance for Texas Gardener


Thanks to Michael Bracken for letting me come out of the shed.

Your New Library

If at this point, you lost your personal library due to fire, flood, divorce, would you replace most of it in print books?

Or would you probably depend on ebooks for most of your reading?

What would be one or two books you would definitely still need to see on a shelf?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday Night Music: Immigrant from THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

For Those Who Say Kids Don't Read


I'll be following her. And isn't it a shame, her local and school library didn't own THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. I bet mine doesn't either. YES IT DOES.


This is everywhere on facebook but for those who manage to steer clear of it, please watch.

It is gorgeous.

Forgotten Movies (or TV shows this week)

Slings and Arrows was a Canadian series which ran on Sundance here from 2003-06. It deals with three seasons of plays and the players at a Shakespearean Festival (New Burbage standing in for Stratford, Ontario). Each season's main production's central quandary is mirrored by the actors in real life. Season One did the Scottish play; Season two, Hamlet and Three, King Lear. Humor is the main ingredient and a spot-on look at the acting life also. And the economics of putting on a show.

I saved the third season as long as I could because the actor playing Lear was an actor we saw play Lear some years ago (William Hutt). Sometimes holding onto something is good. Same reason I still have the last season of Deadwood to watch. Anyone else do that?

For more forgotten movies, check out Todd Mason.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Fully Realized Characters


I have been giving this a lot of thought lately. What writers have been most successful in creating fully realized characters. People who could walk off a page. Ones you come to understand over the course of a book.

And in one book, not a series, which is easier to do, of course.

Memorable characters for me seem to share a common trait: stubbornness. Three recent women who leaped off the page were Mattie Ross in TRUE GRIT; Ree Dolly in WINTER'S BONE and Jane Eyre. All three are negotiating the world at a young age and have to be smart, cagey and determined to survive. They have a mission more important than finding a man or a career. Theirs are life and death issues.

What characters are memorable for you? Who walks off the pages of a book and into your memory?


At 83, Sheila Jordan will receive the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award on Tuesday in New York. The $25,000 prize is America's highest honor in jazz. It also represents a acknowledgement from the musical establishment after a lifetime in the shadows, where she overcame an impoverished childhood, bigotry, addiction and the vagaries of the jazz life, while willing herself into greatness. Born and raised in Detroit, she spent years suffering verbal abuse for being a white girl in bands with black jazz musicians.

Hurray for Sheila Jordan-still singing today.

Who is your favorite female jazz singer?

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Sunday Night Humor: Stacy and Gavin

LAMBS OF GOD at Spinetingler. Thanks!

Better Than the Book (or the first adaptation)

Tucson-back after a fabulous week in Tucson. Barely got my horrible computer to check the weather. Sorry if something got overlooked because I know I missed several emails with the computer which shall not be named.

I just saw the Fincher/English adaptation of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and found it superior to both the book and the first movie.

They cut a lot of boring economic stuff that preceded the real story and got rid of a worthless romance among other things. Fincher did a brilliant job of making every scene zing. He really knows what matters and how to make it matter to you.

But the real key for me was I could pay attention to faces and action and not the sub-titles beneath them. I kid myself sometimes when I say that sub-titles don't bother me because in a thriller, they do. I think they were a real hindrance in the Swedish version of this, for instance.

Here is a list of someone's idea of 50 films that were better than the book, and I would include this one. What is your favorite example?

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Saturday Night Music; The Highwaymen

How I Came to Continue a Series: Heath Lowrance

Taking Up the Reins on Someone Else’s Character, Heath Lowrance
Last year, David Cranmer, writer and editor of Beat to a Pulp, donned a disguise, strapped on a six-gun, and became Edward A. Grainger. As Grainger, he wrote a whole slew of fantastic Western action stories, and then gathered them all up into two volumes, THE ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE AND GIDEON MILES, volumes One and Two. Critics and readers ate them up, and for good reason. They were remarkably well-written, full of Western bravado, heart, and keen insight into the human condition. In short, everything you’d want from a good Western story.
Like everyone else, I was quite smitten with Grainger’s work. It was all very far removed from what I did myself, but I never thought of that as relevant. Genre fiction is a big enough territory to play host to all sorts of stories, and all sorts of perspectives.
Toward the end of the year, I did a Western story myself, sort of, called “That Damned Coyote Hill”, a sort of pulp-Western-horror crossbreed that read nothing like a Grainger story. But it lead to an amazing opportunity: the chance to dabble in Grainger’s world.
Grainger put his character Gideon Miles on the table for me, and I snatched it up without a second thought.
Between Cash and Gideon, Gideon was the one I most favored. And I thought that, as well-developed as Cash was, Gideon was still a bit of an enigma. A black U.S. Marshall in the 1880’s, stoic and dedicated, nursing his own private hurts. That’s a lot to work with.
The hardest part, for me, was adapting myself to writing about someone who was actually heroic. That’s something I’d never attempted. In my work, heroes are a rare breed, and even Hawthorne, the protagonist of “That Damned Coyote Hill”, is not a hero in the strictest sense—he’s a raw, violent force of nature who has no problem with shooting an unarmed villain in cold blood. Gideon Miles, however, is an entirely different breed; he’s a man driven by his personal values and dedication to his job. A decent, compassionate lawman who’s characteristics are even more remarkable considering what he has to deal with on a daily basis.
So I wrote a one-page character study of him first, outlining all the things about Gideon I thought were relevant. His decency and compassion, his stoicism, his commitment, his repressed anger. Sent it off to David/Edward, who assured me that I had nailed the character pretty well.
And so I was off. I wrote “Miles to Little Ridge”, a fast-moving actioner that finds our hero (yes, hero… weird, huh?) on the trail of a wanted man who might be innocent, and at odds with a pair of hardcases to boot. I enjoyed the hell out of writing it, and got to actually experience the thrill of writing about an actual good guy for a change.
The reception to “Miles to Little Ridge” was a positive one, which surprised me, frankly, considering that Grainger’s characters have inspired so much love from readers. I was half-convinced that no one would accept them from anyone but Grainger. But I did his readers a disservice there. They read the story with open minds, enjoyed it, and now… my own little contribution to the ongoing legends of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles is canonical. No lie, that feels pretty damn good.
Other writers are going to be tackling Grainger’s characters in this coming year, so we have a lot to look forward to. And odds are, I’ll pen another Gideon Miles story at some point.
Thanks, David, for letting me play in your sandbox.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book, January 6, 2012

Todd will have the links at http://socialistjazz.blogspot.com

In the air, so can't make any changes. See you here next week. Patti

Thursday, January 05, 2012

My Life at the Theater-Black and Blue

This was the thrilling blues review of 1990 with Ruth Brown, Linda Hopkins, Carrie Smith and a bunch of great hoofers including the young Savion Glover. It played at the Minskoff Theater and it was a total treat.

The production was conceived and directed by Claudio Segovia and Hector Orezzoli. The original production debuted in Paris.

Top Movies of 2011

  1. Kawasaki’s Rose (directed by Jan Hrebejk) A renowned psychiatrist is chosen to receive a significant Czech medal for his exemplary life. However, his son-in-law discovers that he once collaborated with state security agencies, informing on a former friend of his wife and bearing responsibility for the latter's forced emigration.
  2. Of God and Men (directed by Xavier Beauvois,) a group of French Trappist monks, assigned to a station in Algeria, must decide whether to stay or go when they are threatened by terrorists.
  3. Poetry (directed by Chang Long Lee) Jeong-Lu Yun stars as a woman who discovers she has Alzheimers at the same moment she discovers her grandson has committed a heinous crime. Her enrollment in a poetry class brings her a momentary peace.
  4. Incendies (directed by Denis Villeneuve) a brother and sister, now living in Montreal, follow the wishes of their deceased mother, and travel to the Middle East to discover what secrets her past held.
  5. Blue Valentine (directed by Derek Cianfrance) Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star in the saddest love story of the last decade. This film is helped immensely by the caliber of acting and the director’s unwillingness to tack on a happy ending.
  6. Take Shelter (directed by Jeff Nichols) Michael Shannon plays a man wrestling with an apocalyptic vision that is either precognizant or the onset of mental illness. An amazing performance and Nichols nails the small town and its residents.
  7. The Artist (directed by Michael Hazanavicius )Jean Dijardin stars as a silent movie star who can’t make the transition to talkies despite the love of a good woman. Silent, black and white, and haunting with a mesmerizing performance.
  8. Drive (directed by Nicholas Refri) Ryan Gosling stars as the unnamed wheelman, whose hole becomes deeper after a heist gone wrong.
  9. Even the Rain (directed by Icíar Bollaín)A film crew, making a movie about Columbus, becomes embroiled in local politics and inadvertently commit the same atrocities the movie purports to critique.
  10. The Guard (directed by John Michael McDonough) One of the few good comedies I saw this year (although second place would go to THE TRIP). Brendan Gleeson, a small-town cop and Don Cheedle, an FBI agent, knock heads as they try to make sense of some goings-on in a small Irish town.
  11. Moneyball (directed by Bennett Hill) Brad Pitt does an outstanding job of playing Billy Beane, a baseball general manager who comes up with a new way of looking at baseball stats.
  12. Margin Call (directed by J.C. Chandor) a team of good actors actually make sense and art of the factors leading to the collapse of 2008.
  13. Source Code (directed by Duncan Jones) Jake Gyllenhal is our hero in a story of a man on a train who gets to repeat the last eight minutes before a crash until he gets it right.

Best Actor: Brad Pitt for both Moneyball and Tree of Life.

Best Actress, Jeong-Lu Yun for Poetry

Most movies on this list have a crime in it despite its best intentions. Perhaps all good movies do.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Book Review Club

Patrick Dewitt has fashioned a very satisfying western with the story of two brothers who have carved out lives as henchman for the mysterious Commodore. Their current assignment is to take care of a Mr. Warm, a gold miner in California.

On the way from Oregon to Sacramento to fulfill their assignment, they meet lots of colorful characters and Eli especially begins to question their mission in life.

THE SISTER BROTHERS updates the classic western by adding a lot of humor that is not at the expense of a good tale. All the expected elements are here but tweaked a bit. The writing is excellent and the early blood-letting gives way to a more mature appreciation of a life examined. Highly recommended.

Links to more reviews can be found at Barrie Summy's blog.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Nicholas Ray directed this film about a school teacher whose life is saved by the miraculous use of cortisone. The miracle turns sour however when he become psychotic.

This is a terrific performance by James Mason in quite a shocking story. Barbara Rush plays his patient and resourceful wife. Walter Matthau, his friend.