Friday, August 31, 2012

From Deb in Louisiana

Thank you everyone who has asked about my situation here in Slidell. I'm happy to report that after a four-day evacuation to Natchitoches (which was actually quite fun because our oldest daughter goes to school at Northwestern State, plus we were staying at a Bed & Breakfast owned by an old college buddy of my husband's), a neighbor who had stayed called to let us know power was back in our area, so we drove back home today.

Our area did not flood and our home was fine--although the back yard is a shambles, full of fallen tree limbs, and everything in fridge & freezer had to be tossed out due to loss of power. But who cares? Compared to Katrina, when I came back six weeks later my home and everywhere else was still devastated, it was like returning from vacation.

However, many people have not been so fortunate: there was flooding from both the bayous and Lake Pontchartrain, so neighborhoods in two sections of town have major damage. Please think good thoughts for those people--like the teacher I work with who had to be rescued from her attic--both on the Northshore and those in Plaquemines Parish, and those in the coastal areas if Mississippi, which were very hard hit.

If you can manage a donation to the Red Cross, I know that would be appreciated too.


We've spent this morning clearing out fridge and freezer--realizing in the process that we sure do buy a lot of food that we "forget" about--I threw out crawfish, shrimp, talapia, brisket, deer sausage, etc. I'm going to take this opportunity to clean the freezer thoroughly and vow in the future to keep better track of the food I put in it! Tomorrow--yard clean up!

But I do feel so blessed to have made it through with such minimal damage. Based on my Katrina experience, I know that people with major damage have only just begun the clean up process--and processing what happened emotionally and mentally, which is in its own way much harder.

Thank you again for all of your thoughts and prayers.

Posted by D

Beautiful Women of the Silver Screen: Greta Garbo

The Summing Up, Friday, August 31, 2012

Check out my review of SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN at Crimespree Cinema.

Agatha Christie day coming up on October 12, 2012. I pick PERIL AT END HOUSE. Not that someone else can't have a shot at it too.

The Summing Up, Friday, August 31, 2012

Amy. Industrial Magic, Kelly Armstrong
Patti Abbott, The Millstone, Margaret Drabble
Sergio Angelini, One for the Road, Fredric Brown
Yvette Banek, Epigrams, Oscar Wilde
Eric Beetner, Dark As Night, Mark To Conard
Brian Busby, Thirty Years at Stratford, Robertson Davies
Bill Crider, Amazing Stories: the Anthology, ed. Kim Mohan
Scott Cupp, Any Day Now, Terry Bison
Martin Edwards, Silence of a Purple Shirt, R. E. Woodthorpe
Kurt Evans, The Protege, Charlotte Armnstrong
Ed Gorman, Murder Among Owls, Bill Crider
Jerry House, Hauntings and Horrors, ed. Alden H. Norton
Randy Johnson, Voodoo, Jeffery Wilds Deaver
Nick Jones, The Sour Lemon Score, Richard Stark
George Kelley, A Confederation of Valor, Tanya Huff
Margot Kinberg, Faceless Killers, Henning Mankell
B.V. Lawson, Murder for Treasure, David Williams
Evan Lewis, Mr. Sixgun, Brian Garfield
Steve Lewis/Allen J. Hubin, The Baxter Trust, J.P. Hailey
Todd Mason, Our Generation, Vlume 17, Number 1
Neer, The End of Her Honeymoon, Marie Beloc Lowndes
Neglected Books Page James AswellLinkJ.F. Norris, The Cross-Eyes Bear, Dorothy B. Hughes
Juri Nummelin, Tales of Suspense Audio book-link below
Richard Pangburn, Paranoia, Joseph Finder-link below
David Rachels, Pro Bono, Seicho Matsumoto
James Reasoner, Johnny Lidell's Morgue, Frank Kane
Ron Scheer, The Pilgrim and the Pioneer, John C. Bell
Michael Slind,A Neat Little Corpse, Max Murray
Kerrie Smith, A Great Deliverance, Elizabeth George
Kevin Tipple, Sorrow's Anthm, Michael Kortya
TomCat, The Book of Changes, R.H.W. Dillard
Prashant Trikannad, To the Last Man, Zane Grey

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 31, 2012

Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad and Sam McCain series as well as some darn great westerns and standalones. You can find him here.


The only series I read regularly are those that offer worlds I want to visit. This may be because before I began reading mysteries regularly I read science fiction. World building is critical in sf and fantasy.

And it is in mystery fiction, too. Sherlock Holmes. Agatha Christie. John Dickson Carr. Indelible worlds. Or Mr. and Mrs. North. Craig Rice's various detectives working out of Chicago. Hammett, Chandler, Chester Himes' Harlem novels.

And Bill Crider's small town Texas series, the latest of which is MURDER AMONG OWLS (St. Martin's, $23.95) This time Sheriff Dan Rhodes has to decide whether Helen Harris' death was accidental or criminal. At certain points in his investigation his deputies are his biggest hindrance to solving what is now clearly a crime. Wizards they're not.

Any novel that references the Warner Bros. cartoon icon Pepe Le Pew on the third page is a can't miss reading experience for me. And Crider does this as he does everythin
g else--nice and easy. The sentences and the scenes flow so gracefully you might overlook the difficulty of keeping the writing so spot-on.

If you think Andy Griffith of Mayberry with an edge and a tart tongue you'll have a good sense of of the world Crider creates in these fine books. He's admirably unsentimental about his town and its people, seeing them for what they are. The good ones are good without being saints, the bad ones are bad without being Hannibal Lechter. Real people doing real people things.

Two highlights--the dog who's scared of the cat and a hilarious chain saw chase between a lunatic and his seventy-something would-be prey. I've never read this scene in any form anywhere else before. It is pure Crider and the essence of his best work.

You'll like Rhodes and his town. And for sure you'll want to come back for more.

The Millstone, Margaret Drabble, Patti Abbott

Margaret Drabble was one of my favorite writer in the late sixties and early seventies. She was able to make the concerns of young women seem important, serious, and legitimate. Yet her novels had a light-heartedness to them too.

Her characters seemed to be experiencing the things I was also at that time.

All of the early novels are great fun but THE MILLSTONE (1976) is one of my favorites. In this novel, a young woman is pregnant after a one-night romp with a gay friend. At first, she is eager to be rid of the fetus, but she eventually has the baby and discovers herself in the process.

I am also very fond of THE WATERFALL, JERUSALEM, THE GOLDEN and THE GARRICK YEAR. Drabble has continued to publish steadily having some 17 novels by now.

She is the sister of A.S. Byatt. According to Wikipedia, they are in a dispute lasting many years over a tea set and have not spoken. This happens more than you'd think, doesn't it? And is certainly the stuff of good fiction.

Sergio Angelini
Yvette Banek
Eric Beetner
Brian Busby
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Kurt Evans
Jerry House
Randy Johnson
Nick Jones
George Kelley
Margot Kinberg
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/Allen J. Hubin
Todd Mason
Neglected Books PageLinkJ.F. Norris
Juri Nummelin
Richard Pangburn
David Rachels
James Reasoner
Ron Scheer
Michael Slind
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple
Prashant Trikannad

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Life at the Theater: HAMLET

I have seen the story of the Prince of Denmark many times. Paul Gross (SLINGS AND ARROWS in the clip above) made a remarkable Hamlet at Stratford in 2000. In 1992, I saw a production at the Hilberry Theater in Detroit and a few years earlier. a production at the Attic Theater in Detroit. I know there are more but these were the playbills I could find. Then the movies, of course.

HAMLET never lets you down.

How I Came to Write This Book: Andrew Nette

How I came to write this book.

I started writing the book that eventually became Ghost Money in 1996 when I worked for several months in Cambodia as a wire service journalist.

I’d first traveled to Cambodia in 1992 while living in neighbouring Laos. It was a desperately poor and traumatised country. The Khmer Rouge, responsible for the deaths by starvation and torture of approximately 1.7 million Cambodians during their brief rule in the seventies, were still fighting from heavily fortified jungle bases. The government was an unstable coalition of two parties who’d been at each other’s throats for the better part of a decade and whose main interests were settling historical scores and making money.

Phnom Penh, the crumbling capital of the former French colony, was crawling with foreigners; peacekeepers sent by the West and its allies to enforce peace between the various factions, and their entourage of drop outs, hustlers, pimps, spies, do-gooders and journalists. The streets teemed with Cambodian men in military fatigues missing legs and arms, victims of the landmines strewn across the country. There was no power most of the time. The possible return of the Khmer Rouge caste a shadow over everything.

When the opportunity arose several years later to fill in with one of the wire services, I jumped at it. As it turned out, from a journalist’s standpoint, my timing was good.

Unknown to most foreign observers, the Khmer Rouge has been splintering internally for many years. Partly this was the result of the government’s relentless military operations. More decisive were internal tensions over the movement’s direction and how best to divide the spoils from the guerrillas’ logging and gem mining operations along the border with Thailand.

In August 1996, a couple of weeks before I arrived, Ieng Sary, the former Deputy Prime Minister in the charnel house the Khmer Rouge called Democratic Kampuchea, announced he’d split from the movement and wanted to negotiate with the Coalition Government for amnesty.

He claimed he’d grown sick of fighting and wanted to end the war. A more significant influence were reports Khmer Rouge hardliners under Pol Pot had discovered Sary was skimming the proceeds from gem mining and logging operations, and were about to move against him.

Whatever the case, both sides of Cambodia’s dysfunctional coalition government courted Sary and his not inconsiderable military clout for their own ends. Sary, meanwhile, used his position to stay one step ahead of a prison cell. It was a bizarre, increasingly acrimonious game of cat and mouse that eventually resulted in open warfare between the two coalition partners.

But that’s another story.

These events form the backdrop to Ghost Money.

Cambodia fascinated me from the moment I first arrived. The people, the contrast between the anything goes, Wild West atmosphere of Phnom Penh and the hardscrabble but incredibly beautiful countryside.

History oozed from the cracks in the French colonial architecture and protruded from the rich red earth, sometimes quite literally in the case of the mass graves that litter the countryside. Things happened every day – terrible events and acts of heart breaking generosity you couldn’t make up if you tried.

I always thought Cambodia would be a good setting for a crime story. But I also wanted to capture some of the country’s tragic history, the sense of a nation in transition. In the mid-nineties, the young wanted change, the old wanted stability. In between was another group. Children of the Khmer Rouge era and the civil war that followed, who’d grown up adapting to the rigid economic and political austerity of Soviet Style system. But as the country opened up, a lot of these people were cut adrift.

I was too caught up in the day to day reporting of events and trying to make a living as a freelance journalist to put much of a dent in the book. That didn’t come until nearly a decade later, when one day I sat down and started reading through some old notes.

In early 2008, my partner and I quit our jobs and moved to Cambodia for a year with our then two year old. I freelanced as a journalist, did fixing work for foreign TV crews and finished the first draft of my manuscript.

A lot had changed. The Khmer Rouge insurgency was over. Sary was on trial for war crimes. The streets of Phnom Penh were full of luxury cars. Tourists could get a shiatsu massage in their ozone neutral hotel, then head out for tapas and cocktails.

On another level, a lot hadn’t. The same people still ran things and the methods they used hadn’t altered. The countryside was still poor and beautiful.

Using the skeleton of the plot I developed in the mid-nineties, the basic plot of Ghost Money, a private investigator searching for a lost businessman amidst the chaos of the Khmer Rouge split, came quickly.

The main character, a Vietnamese Australian in denial about his background, took a lot longer. For various reasons, the Vietnamese are intensely disliked by many ordinary Cambodians, something I wanted to use to create an even greater sense of tension in the book.

Ghost Money is a crime story, but it’s also about the broken country that was Cambodia in the nineties, about what happens to people who are trapped in the cracks between two periods of history, the choice they make, what they have to do to survive.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Opening Credits: North by Northwest

Flash Fiction Challenge

New picture.

Rob suggested yesterday that to get my rear in gear I issue a flash fiction challenge. So here it is.

Write a story of 1000 words or less entitled Frank, Jr.

The end date will be September 24, 2012. I will post stories for people who have no blog. No winners or losers. Just good fun. Any genre, any style.

Are you in?

What I Learned About Myself

I just looked through New York Magazine's Fall Previews and found out something about myself I hadn't really thought about. It listed the books, television shows, plays, movies, music, dance, etc. that we could expect in the next three months.

It occurred to me that if I died, I'd never get to see some of the upcoming movies they listed. Movies that looked pretty darn great. With that thought, I realized that as much as I love other mediums, my favorite is the movies. There is nothing like a movie to take me far away. Oh, maybe there are only a dozen great ones in a year. If that.

But when the lights go down, I always expect a transporting experience. The visual element, the sound of voices, the look of a vista or room is what I crave. I bet no one else agrees with this but the best movies I have seen in my lifetime trump the best books because I can visualize them still. I can remember the look on a face, the sound of a train passing, the words from a raspy or sinuous voice, the music of the score. There is no feeling for me better than the lights going down in a theater.

Anyone out there agree. Why not?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Night Music: Leonard Cohen

Lost in the Dunes

What do you do to get yourself out of a writing funk? A month or two ago, I had ideas for two or three stories that excited me. But I got caught up with revisions for stories accepted for anthologies and the stories I was excited about now don't occupy the same place in my brain. Am I making sense? After more than a hundred stories, maybe I am just running out of ideas. What do you do when nothing grabs you and the unfinished stories on your hard drive seem old and stale? What happens when no one steps inside your head and takes it over?

Forgotten TV: Therese Raquin

In 1980 the BBC adapted Emile Zola's Therese Raquin, which does not get enough attention for being a terrific crime novel. It was a part of Masterpiece Theater season in a 3-episode adaption.

(From Wikipedia) Thérèse Raquin tells the story of a young woman, unhappily married to her first cousin by an overbearing aunt who may seem to be well-intentioned but in many ways is deeply selfish. Therese's husband, Camille, is sickly and egocentric, and when the opportunity arises, Thérèse enters into a turbulent and sordidly passionate affair with one of Camille's friends, Laurent.

The BBC version stars Kate Nelligan, Brian Cox and some other familiar faces. It was good enough to send me off to read several Zola novels. This was my favorite although he is a terrific writer.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Night Poetry.

Julian Barnes' A SENSE OF AN ENDING was one of my favorite books of 2011. How nice that someone wrote a poem about it. And captured its essence so well.

What is Your Favorite Biography?

A. Scott Berg has written a slew of biographies but this is my favorite due to my interest in his subject. Perkins edited three (Fitzgerald, Wolfe and Hemingway) of the finest writers of the 20th Century, perhaps shaping their books. This biography won the National Book Award and deserved to.

What is your favorite biography?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Beautiful Women of the Silver Screen: Jennifer Lopez

The Summing Up, Friday, August 24, 2012

My exciting adventures at the Traverse City Film Festival is on Crimespree Cinema.

Patti Abbott, Bob, the Gambler, Fredrick Barthelme
Sergio Angelini, Nightmare Cruise, Wade Miller
Yvette Banek, Singing in the Shrouds, Ngaio Marsh (link Below)
Brian Busby, Le Nom dans le bronze, Michelle Le Normand (link below)
Bill Crider, The Adventures of Race Williams, Carrol John Daly
Loren Eaton, They Walked Like Men, Clifford D. Simak
Martin Edwards, Murder at 23:10, Newton Gale
Kurt Evans, A Mammoth Murder, Bill Crider
Elisabeth Grace Foley, The Girls of Silver Spur Ranch, Grace McGowan Cooke and Anne McQueen,
Ed Gorman, Hard-boiled America, Geoffrey O'Brien
Jerry House, The Black Mask Murders, William F. Nolan
Randy Johnson, The Nameless Breed, Will C. Brown
Nick Jones, A Thirsty Evil. P,M. Hubbard
George Kelley, 50 in 50, Harry Harrison
Margot Kinberg, Edwin of the Iron Shoes, Marcia Muller
B.V. Lawson, Harbingers of Fear, Dorothy Simpson
Evan Lewis, Contraband, Cleve F. Adams (with Robert Leslie Bellem)
Steve Lewis/Dan Stumpf, The Captain Hates the Sea, Wallace Smith
Steve Lewis, The Last Domino Contract, Philip Atlee
Todd Mason, THE STUFFED OWL, edited by D. B. Wyndham Lewis and Charles Lee; PARODIES edited by Dwight Macdonald
Terrie Moran, Duped by Derivatives, Gail Farrely
Neer, N is for No Comebacks, Fredrick Forsyth
J.F. Norris, Fair Murder, Nicholas Brady
David Rachels, All the Way, Charles Williams
James Reasoner, The Silver Desert, Ernest Haycox
Gerard Saylor, The Blade Itself, Marcus Sakey
Ron Scheer, Poker Jim, Gentleman, G. Frank Lydston
Michael Slind, The Chinese Orange Mystery, Ellery Queen
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, The Innocent Mrs. Duff, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Prashant Trikkanad, Comic Books of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
TomCat, The Glass Mask, Lenore Glen Offord

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 24, 2012

Todd Mason will gather the links next Friday. Thanks, Todd.

Ed Gorman is the author of the Sam McCain and Dev Conrad series of crime fiction. You can find him here.

Hardboiled America, Geoffrey O'Brien

One of the books about hardboiled fiction that rarely gets mentioned is Hardboiled America by Geoffrey O'Brien. He's a literary writer of real distinction (as well as the editor of The Library of America) but he's not slumming. He loves and understands the material. And he writes with real elegance.

His assessment of such major writers as Hammett, Chandler, Woolrich, Gardner are very much his own, and all the more fascinating because of it. He also takes the time to illustrate how literary fiction influenced hardboiled and how hardboiled influenced literary and mainstream.

For me he's at his best with the second generation of hardboiled writers, namely the Gold Medal girls and boys and how they spun off into Lion, Graphic, Ace, etc. I wish he wasn't so dismissive of John D. MacDonald. Here he takes the familiar path of the neo-noir critics who complain that JDM wasn't tough enough in his viewpoint. Most of his books concern middle class or working class men and women confronting crime. They're not gumshoes, they're not criminals. They bring their manners and mores with them when they try to extricate themselves from their problems. It's not that he isn't hardboiled; it's that he doesn't use all the cliches of hardboiled.

O'Brien shines when discussing Day Keene, Harry Whittington and, especially, Charles Williams. In fact I think his piece on Williams is definitive. Hard to imagine anybody handling Williams' career any more shrewdly.

The Hardboiled Checklist at the back of the book (1929-1960) is the most intelligent, exhaustive such list I've ever seen. Makes you wish you had three lifetimes just to read every book he takes note of.

This belongs on the shelf of every hardboiled reader and writer. It doesn't get any better than this.

Bob, the Gambler, Frederick Barthelme (Patti Abbott)

Taking its title from the famous French film and its subject matter from Barthelme's real life (as he would later document in DOUBLE DOWN when his brother Stephen stands in for Jewel) this is the story of a couple that becomes seduced by the glitz and excitement of gambling, quickly moving from slots to high stakes gambling.
Ray is one of the world's worst gamblers however.

How can you not get drawn into it with the first sentences: "What I'd always liked about Biloxi was the decay, the things falling apart, the crap along the beach, the skeletons of abandoned hotels, the trashy warehouses and rundown piers jutting out into the dirty water so I wasn't thrilled that in the last five years our dinky coast town had been turned into an outlet-mall version of Las Vegas....

Ray and his wife, Jewel, take the trip down the rabbit hole of gambling. Sometimes the book is funny, sometimes scary (they have a kid) but always a pleasure to read. If you prefer non-fiction, DOUBLE DOWN is equally wonderful.

Sergio Angelini
Yvette Banek
Brian Busby
Bill Crider
Loren Eaton
Martin Edwards
Kurt Evans
Elisabeth Grace Foley
Jerry House
Randy Johnson
Nick Jones
George Kelley
Margot Kinberg
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/Dan Stumpf
Steve Lewis
Todd Mason
Terrie Moran
J.F. Norris
David Rachels
James Reasoner
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer
Michael Slind
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang
Prashant Trikkanad

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Life at the Theater: BURN THIS

We saw this last Saturday at the Performance Network in Ann Arbor. We have seen perhaps a dozen plays there over the years and all of them have been terrific.

BURN THIS is a Lanford Wilson play originally produced in 1987 with Joan Allen and John Malkovich. It's been a staple since that time with another Broadway appearance a decade ago. Wilson often deals with gay themes but it was a minor one in this play.

The acting was terrific in this production, (far better than some samples I saw on you tube) but there was something lacking in the play for us. We were not convinced that this couple would find their way to each other. Maybe there needed to be more heat in its direction. Or perhaps Wilson didn't quite write the words to make their relationship believable.

But it was well worth seeing as a document of the times and for the great performances. Although there are many movies I regret seeing (including the current Will Ferrell one) I have never regretted seeing a play.

The audience was very stingy with its applause at our performance. I felt like going backstage to apologize for the rush to the doors.

What is the best sandwich you've ever had?

Well, Slow's Barbecue's Yardbird did not win the contest as the world's best sandwich on the Travel Channel although it finished in the top three. I've never had it but will probably cruise by some day.

Our food section on Sunday was filled with various ideas of the best sandwiches in Detroit.

I am partial to a cranberry bread and turkey sandwich a restaurant near me makes. It's at the Weekday Cafe in St. Clair Shores. Michigan. Chef Ed makes everything from scratch and most of it is to die for. It's closed on weekends and after seven on weekdays. It only seats a handful of people and is located in a strip mall.

Phil doesn't like to go there because it is run by a surly woman (Ed's wife) but it's a darn fine sandwich.

What's your favorite? At home or on the road.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Opening Credits: The Sopranos

Five Things I'd Tell the Teenage Me

What Things Would You Pick?

1. You are neither as cool as you seemed in sixth or eleventh grade nor the klutzy nerd you seemed in eighth or tenth. So don't get a big head, but don't hang it either.

2. Boys "things" don't fall off if you don't have sex with them. They are not in mortal pain either.

3. Girls can be good at math--if they pay attention. Don't listen to those male math teachers. You will be the star in your math class in college at age 48. Sadly, it was the math you should have learned at age 14.

4. Spend more time with your parents. The kids you are with at 16 will disappear from your life forever.

5. Don't smoke. It is not as easy as you might think to quit.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Night Music: Talking Heads

The Hedgehog

Although this movie was made only a year ago, I am confident that almost no one here saw it and so I am counting it as a forgotten movie.

It was a wonderful film that did justice to the novel on which it was based. I think one mistake was in changing the title, which made it even less familiar to those who read Muriel Barbery's fantastic novel, THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG.

Mona Achache directed this charming, sad, realistic story of an eleven-year old girl who is bored beyond reason, Rene, the superintendent in her building, who is secretly the world's most prolific reader, and the Japanese gentleman who moves in upstairs, The three kindred souls befriend each other.

The book was somewhat richer, but only because it was able to convey the Super's inner thoughts about her reading material. Other than that is was a nearly perfect transition from page to screen. But no one saw it. Please do.

What is your favorite print to screen translation?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Movie Theme Music: Laura

RIP Scott McKenzie

Thanks to Jim Wilsky.

Wallander-Swedish Version

We have just finished the first three episodes of the Swedish version of Wallander. I can't remember seeing many stronger series on US or British TV.

The casting is magnificent. The three leads--the actors who play Wallander, Linda Wallander and her love interest--are outstanding.

The TV writers and Mankell seem to have a real grasp of how to integrate the personal lives of the Wallanders with the case they are working on. The police never seem to just follow their nose around until they discover the culprit. (I do get tired of police interviewing suspects for 90 minutes). And all of these episodes draw on Swedish life/history in the crimes committed.

If you have only seen the British version of Wallander, this seems superior to me. You do have to read subtitles, but you quickly forget you're reading it.

What is your favorite imported series of crime fiction? This may come right after Morse for me.

A Little Excitement

From Publisher's Weekly-Page to Screen

Fox 2000 has optioned Megan Abbott’s Dare Me, which was released by Reagan Arthur Books in July. The option was done on behalf of producer Karen Rosenfelt (The Devil Wears Prada), who is currently developing feature adaptations of Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief and Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up. The novel, which explores the dark underside of competitive teenage cheerleading and was pitched by the publisher as “Fight Club for girls,” is being adapted for the screen by Abbott.

Sylvie Rabineau and Jill Gillet at RWSG Literary did the deal on behalf of Dan Conaway at Writers House.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Night Poetry: Mary Oliver

Books That Shaped America

Here's a list put out by the Library of Congress of books that shaped America (hat tip Jim Chalmers). Not quite the same as the topic of a few weeks ago, books that define the American experience.

I would certainly add LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. Every girl reads this series as a history of the pioneering age of the U.S. And a story of family.

And perhaps THE MAN IN THE GREY FLANNEL SUIT, which documents the often soulless nature of pursuing the American dream.

And Julia Childs' MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING, which made eating well a goal at a time when cooking was a pretty dull affair.

Oh, and THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD that sums up our national need to succeed.

What would you add?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday Night Music: Rodriquez

Find out more about Rodriquez in the wonderful movies SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN. Great film..

Friday, August 17, 2012

Beautiful Women of the Silver Screen: Gene Tierney

The Summing Up, Friday, August 17, 2012

My review of Beasts of the Southern Wild is up on on Crimespree Cinema. Don't miss this movie.

Patti Abbott, The Wench is Dead, Colin Dexter
Sergio Angelini, Murder on the Blackboard, Stuart Palmer
Brian Busby, Catch a Falling Starlet, Douglas Sanderson
Bill Crider, Manhattan is My Beat, Jeffrey Wilds Deaver
Scott Cupp, , The Leopard Couch, Sax Rohmer
Martin Edwards, The Castleford Connundrum, J.J. Connington
Curt Evans, The Collected Short Stories of Joyce Porter
Jerry House, Soviet Science Fiction, anonymous
Randy Johnson, Pulling a Train, Harlan Ellison
Nick Jones, "Gavin Lyall"
George Kelley, Vultures of the Void, Philip Harbottle
Margot Kinberg, White Sky, Black Ice, Stan Jones
Rob Kitchin, The Man on the Balcony, Majs Sjowall and Per Wahloo
B.V. Lawson, Sylvia, Howard Fast
Evan Lewis, A Daffy Dill mystery, Richard Sale
Steve Lewis/Marvin Lachman, Selected Tales of Grim and Grue, from the Horror Pulps
Todd Mason, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, the final issue in June 1953
Neer, Inqilab, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas
J.F. Norris, The Secret of Sarek, Maurice LeBlanc
Richard Pangburn, The Laughing Policeman, Majs Sjowall and Per Wahloo
James Reasoner, The Ill Wind Contract, Philip Atlee
Richard Robinson, Helmet for My Pillow, Robert Leckie
Gerard Saylor, Straight Razor Days, Joel Hynes
Ron Scheer, Smith of Bear City, George Tower Buffum
Bill and Michael Selnes, One L, Scott Turow
Kerrie Smith, Murder in the Mews, Agatha Christie
Kevin Tipple, Antler Dust, Mark Stevens
TomCat, Voyage into Violence, Frances and Richard Lockridge

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 17, 2012

This books pays homage to the setup of Tey's DAUGHTER OF TIME, by placing Morse in a hospital where the murder of a woman a century earlier draws his interest.

He is given a book to pass the time, which recounts the murder of Joanna Franks on an Oxford canal trip in the year 1859. With the help of a librarian at the Bodleian Library and Sergeant Lewis he is able to reconstruct the case from records and come to some conclusions at odds with the accounts of the time. The murder took place on the canal trip and two men were hung for the murder. Morse believes the men were innocent.

Most of the time Morse is in the hospital doing his detecting (as did the detective in DAUGHTER OF TIME in regards to Richard III), but at the end some field work makes him even surer of his conclusions. This is one of my favorite Morse tales although all of them are great.

Sergio Angelini
Brian Busby
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Curt Evans
Jerry House
Randy Johnson
Nick Jones
George Kelley
Margot Kinberg
Rob Kitchin
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/Marvin Lachman
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris
Richard Pangburn
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer
Bill and Michael Selnes
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Life at the Theater: GUYS ON ICE

I saw this at the Purple Rose Theater in Chelsea Michigan. I am guessing it was in 2001 because Jeff Daniels' notes on the first page talk about needing a silly play like this one after the recent events. Although God knows, there are always horrific recent events it seems.
Anyway, as hard as it is to believe, this is a musical about ice fishing in Wisconsin. Lots of tunes, lots of jokes. It was written by Fred Allen with James Kaplan as composer. It's a local favorite.

A Scene That Best Describes a TV Show

It's probably only because I am rewatching MAD MEN that this thought came to me. I was watching a mid-season episode from Year 2. Don has purchased a baby blue Coup de Ville and takes the family out for a picnic. The car door is open and music blares from the running car. When they are finished with their picnic, he tosses a beer can into the woods and all of the paper products are left to blow in the wind. At the same time, Don is very careful about treatment of his new car, inspecting hands, forbidding silly putty.

To me this scene perfectly captures the careless people the series depicts. Oh, I remember days when the absence of public trashcans meant you could toss paper and trash. But this group of people are careless with their lives. There priorities are skewed. They are arrogant, foolish, supercilious, insecure and perfectly human.

Can you think of a scene that captures the essence of a TV show you like(d)?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What are you Reading Right Now?

In what format are you reading it? Is it the first time you've read it. How did you hear about it? Do you think you will finish it? Did you pay full price for it if you bought it?

I am listening to STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett on audio from my library.
I am reading HE DIED WITH HIS EYES OPEN, by Derek Raymond, which I bought at a used bookstore about three years ago.

So far, neither has grabbed me, but I soldier on. What about you?

Forgotten Movies THE GREY FOX

I am so glad the terrific Richard Farnsworth got to star in a movie in 1982 that was so suited to his strengths. A fellow spends most of his life in jail for robbing stagecoaches. Finally released he tries to go straight while living with his sister, but eventually the lure of his old life makes trains look awfully appealing now that stagecoaches have disappeared.
Just a terrific film. A mostly unknown cast just makes it better. And it looks good, doesn't it?
Todd Mason will have the links later today.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Movie Themes: E.T.

A Sure-Fire Read

I have started at least five books in the last week. Books I know I would usually like. But none of them have worked for me.

One problem I sometimes have is when the book begins by dropping me into the middle of a scene and I have to scramble to figure out who everyone is and what is going on. I like to ease into a book with one character to cling to--at least at first.

If the writing on a page looks too dense, I am also put off. I need paragraphs, dialogue, white space and a narrative mix. Am I fussy? Probably.

What is the most sure-fire book you might recommend for someone having trouble finding the right thing to read? What book can no one resist?

DOUBLE VISION, Fleur Bradley

Congrats to our friend, Fleur!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Night Poetry: Elizabeth Bishop

TV and the Sell by Date

Almost every TV show you can think of, jumps the shark or surpasses its inherent sell-by date.

I am especially aggrieved when it is a good series. When the writers seem to have lost interest or their way. Or just couldn't turn the money down.

THE OFFICE just had an horrific season, for instance. Think of the last year of SEINFELD, TWIN PEAKS, and so many more.

What TV show stands out in your mind as almost ruining the good years by giving us the bad.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday Night Music: Eminem

Susan Sarandon

I discovered Sarandon as a stay- at- home mommy. She was in a soap called A World Apart and immediately lit up the stage.

She has made more movies I have enjoyed than any other contemporary actress. None more so than THELMA AND LOUISE.
She is smart, savy, sexy. What more can you ask?

What is your favorite Sarandon film. Here's the list.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Beautiful Women of the Silver Screen: Halle Berry

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 10, 2012

While I scurry home from Canada, Todd Mason had the rest of the links right here.

Ed Gorman writes about Sam McCain and Dev Conrad among other things. You can find him here.

I've always enjoyed cops turned bad novels. These days when they go bad they automatically become killing machines. I prefer the older style where one murder will do and the book focuses on the mental and spiritual disintegration of the cop. Bad Lt. is the greatest example even though it's certainly modern.

I mention this because last night I read Lionel White's The Money Trap and rea
lized that just about everything I like about genre fiction is packed into that novel. Compelling characters, an extremely cunning storyline and a believable if bitter love story that is truly adult.

Two cops cover a crime scene in which a wealthy doctor claims that he caught a burglar in his bedroom and shot him in the back. The doctor's prestige saves him from any serious scrutiny. But before the intruder died he told one of the cops something about the contents of the wall safe where the doctor hid an illicit one million dollars.

Though the narrator has to be dragged into it, he joins his fellow cop in figuring out how to separate the doctor from his million. Paralleling this is the story of his dis-inte grating marriage. For anybody who's ever drunk his way through a bad marriage some of the scenes are pretty grim.

White was a master of the multiple viewpoint caper novel. But I wish he'd written more intimate-narratives like this one. He wrote a few others in this style but this was the best.
Couple of points first about the book. Donald Westlake always acknowledged White's influence on his work and reading this White novel you certainly see what he was talking about. The characters, the milieu and the plot turns Westlakelearned from him became tropes in the vastWestlake library of tropes especially in the early years though throughout the Parker series all the way to the end.
Glenn Ford was right for the film as was RitaHayworth here, sadly, near the end of her run. The beauty was almost all gone but somehow that was all right--somehow she was still beautiful anyway. You wanted to hold her, protect her. The soundtrack was way too melodramatic, Ricardo Montalban as the second cop would have been great if his part had been better written and the scenes with Ford's wife don't work right because they're too Hollywood. In the book she's independently wealthy--you accept that because the difference is, say, he's a working stiff and drives a new Chevy and she drives maybe a Caddy. But as only Hwood can...the place they live in is a palace and the parties she throws are enormous with Beautiful People walking around in evening attire while plucking martinis from the trays of servants. And I'm talking maybe a hundred people. Too much. But worth seeing. Oh and Joseph Cotton ala Montalban needed better writing to pull off his part. In the novel the doctor is a snake and should've been here, too.

While I scurry home from Canada and seeing HENRY V, Todd Mason had the rest of the links right here.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

My Life at the Theater: KILLER JOE

This is from the current movie, but we saw the play in Chicago in April, 2000 at The Theater at 2851 North Halstead. It was a knockout-violent, funny, surprising. Tracy Letts first premiered his play in 1994 so it's been kicking around for years. One of those plays I'd see again. Not sure about the movie but probably that too.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Tuesday Night Music: The Tornadoes


This was a delightful TV show that only graced our screens for one year. Based on the humor, sketches and quirky mind of James Thurber, William Windom played a writer (Monroe) working for a NEW YORKER like magazine. Much of the humor was actually from the work of Thurber and used animation and such to get it across. Monroe had a wife (Joan Hotchkis) and a daughter (Lisa Gerretsen). A real favorite for me in its one year.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Movie Music: Dead Man, Neil Young

Thanks, Ben.

The Most Difficult Book You've Read

I saw a pretty good movie last week (LIBERAL ARTS) and in it there is a discussion of INFINITE JEST without its title ever being mentioned. (In fact, there is a lot of discussion about books--what a treat). Not sure why they never gave the title but it must be to either 1) make it more universal or 2) legal reasons.

This is a book I have tried and failed in reading. Number one turnoff-the length.

I finally succeeded in reading ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, which was a trudgefest for me.

PW has a list of the most difficult books right here. I have only read one or two of them.

What is the most difficult book you have ever read leaving aside works of philosophy and that sort of thing? What have you tried to read and failed?

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Sunday Night Poetry:: Ted Hughes

O lady, when the tipped cup of the moon blessed you
You became soft fire with a cloud's grace;
The difficult stars swam for eyes in your face;
You stood, and your shadow was my place:

You turned, your shadow turned to ice O my lady.

O lady, when the sea caressed you
You were a marble of foam, but dumb.
When will the stone open its tomb?
When will the waves give over their foam?
You will not die, nor come home, O my lady.

O lady, when the wind kissed you
You made him music for you were a shaped shell.
I follow the waters and the wind still
Since my heart heard it and all to pieces fell

Which your lovers stole, meaning ill, O my lady.

O lady, consider when I shall have lost you
The moon's full hands, scattering waste,
The sea's hands, dark from the world's breast,
The world's decay where the wind's hands have passed,
And my head, worn out with love, at rest
In my hands, and my hands full of dust, O my lady.