Friday, November 30, 2012

Beautiful Women of the Silver Screen: Julie Christie

The Summing Up, Friday, November 30, 2012

 Check out my review of THE SESSIONS on Crimespree Cinema.

The Summing Up, Friday, November 30, 2012
Patti Abbott, The Elizabeth Stories, Isabel Huggins
Sergio Angelini, The House, Hilda Lawrence
Yvette Banek, Final Curtain, Ngaio Marsh
Joe Barone, The New Shoe, Arthur B, Upfield
Les Blatt, The Nine Tailers, Dorothy B, Sayers
Brian Busby, Bilingual Today, French Tomorrow, J.V. Andrews
Bill Crider, The Mystery Lover's Companion, Art Bourgeau
Scott Cupp, Hannes Bok, edited by Joseph Wrzos
Martin Edwards, Let's Pretend, Jacqueline Wilson
Curt Evans, A Girl Died Laughing, Viola Paradis
Ed Gorman The Plastic Nightmare, Richard Neely
Jerry House, The Man on the Ceiling, Steve Rasnic. Tem and Melanie Tem
Randy Johnson, Alley Girk, Jonathan Craig
Nick Jones, The Big Bounce, Elmore Leonard
George Kelley, Cogan's Trade, George V. Higgins
Margot Kinberg, Desert Wives, Betty Webb
Rob Kitchin, Cypress Grove, James Sallis
B.V. Lawson, I Start Counting, Audrey Erskine Lindop
Evan Lewis, The Return of the Continental Op, Dashiell Hammett
Steve Lewis/Dan Stumpf, Black Friday, David Goodis
Todd Mason, Lucky Come Hawaii, Jon Shirota
Neer, Amerika, Franz Kafka
J.F. Norris, Murder to Come, Isabel Briggs Myers
Richard Pangburn, Courting Disaster, Julie Edelson
Deb Pfeifer, Roadside Picnic, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
James Reasoner, Backfore, Dan Marlowe
Gerard Saylor. The Gentleman's Hour, Don Winslow
Ron Scheer, The Road Builders, Samuel Merwin
Michael Slind, The Dime Museum Murders, Daniel Stashower
Kerrie Smith, Winter Chill, Jon Cleary
Kevin Tipple, Flrank Hawk, Terry W. Ervin II
TomCat, The Case of the Missing Sandals, Nancy Barr Mavity
Prashant Trikannad, The Discovery of India, Jawaharlal Nehru
Zybahn, Inhuman Beings. Jerry Jay Carroll

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 30, 2012

Six today and his world is all about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Angry Birds, Superheroes. Where did his love of animals go? I am sure it will resurface soon. The skinniest kid alive but the sweetest. He is his Phil's biggest fan and vice versa.

Next week is Ray Bradbury week. Hope you all will join us to celebrate one of the greatest writers of our time.

 Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad and Sam McCain series of crime fiction novels. You can find him right
I've written here before about Richard Neely. He wrote non-series crime novels that pretty much covered the entire range of dark suspense. I mentioned that in the best of them the weapon of choice is not poison, bullets or garrote. He always prefered sexual betrayl.

Plastic is a good example. Using amnesia as the central device Dan Mariotte must reconstruct his life. Learning that the beautiful woman at his bedside all these months in the hospital--his wife--may have tried to kill him in a car accident is only the first of many surprises shared by Mariotte and the reader alike.

What gives the novel grit is Neely's take on the privileged class. He frequently wrote about very successful men (he was a very successful adverts man himself) and their women. The time was the Seventies. Private clubs, privte planes, private lives. But for all the sparkle of their lives there was in Neely's people a despair that could only be assauged (briefly) by sex. Preferably illicit sex. Betrayl sex. Men betrayed women and women betrayed men. It was Jackie Collins only for real.

Plastic is a snapshot of a certain period, the Seventies when the Fortune 500 dudes wore sideburns and faux hippie clothes and flashed the peace sign almost as often as they flashed their American Express Gold cards. Johny Carson hipsters. The counter culture co-opted by the pigs.

The end is a stunner, which is why I can say little about the plot. Neely knew what he was doing and I'm glad
to see his book back in print. Watching Nerely work is always a pleasure.

ROADSIDE PICNIC by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
(Review by Deb)
Recently, a tape from the 1980s surfaced of the late Steve Jobs discussing—in amazingly prescient detail—the future of computers.  At a time when few people even had a home computer, Jobs was already talking about cloud computing, hand-held delivery devices, and the i-pod prototype.  As Jon Stewart of the Daily Show observed after Jobs's death, it’s like we had a visit from an extraterrestrial who left before he could explain how everything is supposed to work.
This is exactly the position of humans in ROADSIDE PICNIC (first published in the Soviet Union in 1971, and anthologized in the west in 1977): It has been a number of years since extraterrestrials visited the Earth, an event referred to as the “visitation.”  They landed simultaneously in six places, stayed for a couple of days (as one scientist puts it, almost as if they had a roadside picnic), and then left—never to return, but leaving behind an assortment of debris and areas of uninhabitable land called “forbidden zones.”  (As a side note, it’s indicative of how effective anti-littering campaigns have been in the last 40 years that we probably now find it hard to imagine leaving a picnic site without picking up our trash—so the “roadside picnic” analogy, with debris strewn far and wide, isn’t immediately recognizable to us.)
Scientists (and black-market scavengers called “stalkers”) periodically visit these forbidden zones to retrieve the material left behind.  No one is really sure how the aliens used these items, but many are bent to human purposes, such as sparkling bracelets that ease pain and disc-like batteries that replace fossil fuel in cars.  However, there is also great danger in the zones—mine explosions, sudden violent winds, searing heat, gravity-defying earth shifts, and a deadly quicksand-like “slime”—so that most countries have completely shut down access to them.  The only zone that is relatively accessible is in the city of Harmont, which is where ROADSIDE PICNIC takes place.
The book is essentially a series of inter-connected vignettes, most of them featuring a stalker named Red Schuhart, that take place over a number of years following the visitation.  Red’s steely nerves and extrasensory awareness of danger have made it possible for him to make successful excursions into the zone. He is considered one of the best stalkers and is even occasionally employed in a semi-official capacity by the government to retrieve items for scientific study—although there is far more money to be made selling the items illegally on the black market.  But Red’s luck starts to run out when a scientist dies after he returns with Red from an official visit to the zone.  Later, during an illegal foray into the zone, Red’s partner, a stalker named Burbridge, sinks into the slime. Red could have left Burbridge to die, but instead helps him get out.  (It is honorable acts such as his rescue of Burbridge that set Red apart from other stalkers and make us like and admire him despite his dangerous and criminal activities in the forbidden zone.)  As a result, Burbridge survives but loses his legs, and Red ends up in prison—requesting that his share of contraband profit go to support his pregnant girlfriend, Guta.
When Red is released from prison several years later, the city of Harmont is in visible decline. Despite constant vigilance, the government can’t stop a criminal syndicate (under the direction of the legless Burbridge) from making frequent excursions into the zone, flooding the market with artifacts, many of which cause harm or are used in a dangerous way by the shadowy underworld figures who buy them.  In addition, the dead of Harmont are rising from their graves and wandering back to their homes.  This phenomenon is not presented in a spooky, zombie apocalypse way, but in a matter-of-fact tone that makes it easy to accept that Red’s dead father is now living in the apartment with Red, Guta, and their daughter.  The daughter, never called any name but “Monkey” because her body is entirely covered with hair, is suffering from such severe genetic mutations that doctors determine she is not actually human. These mutations are undoubtedly the result of Red’s visits to the zone, but he repeatedly returns there, unable to resist the lure of both the money and the adrenaline rush that the visits provide.
Eventually, Burbridge persuades Red to venture once more into the zone, along with Burbridge’s rather naive and idealistic son, to retrieve the Golden Sphere, an almost mythic item that supposedly grants wishes. Red knows that either he or Burbridge’s son must die in order for the survivor to reach the Sphere—although whether Burbridge or his son realizes this is left somewhat ambiguous.  The last few pages of the book are unbearably tense as the men approach the Sphere while attempting to dodge horrific phenomena, such as skin-blistering heat and a booby-trap known, for reasons that soon become sickeningly obvious, as “the meat grinder.”  The ending can be seen as hopeful, cynical, nihilistic, or all three, depending on your perspective and how you interpret the final paragraph.
If you plan to read ROADSIDE PICNIC, I strongly recommend the 2012 edition, which includes an informative introduction by Ursula K. Le Guin and a long afterword by Boris Strugatsky in which he details the fight the brothers had with the Soviet censorship apparatus.  It took years of tweaking and constant demands for minor word and text alterations before authorities finally approved the book for publication in 1971; it would be another 20 years before the book appeared as the brothers originally wrote it.  Boris Strugatsky’s recent death (Arcady died in 1991) makes his afterword even more poignant.  Strugatsky writes that for decades he kept the hundreds of letters and memos that went back and forth between the brothers and the censors.  He had intended to eventually publish a book documenting the nonsensical, Kafkaesque changes that the bureaucrats required to deem ROADSIDE PICNIC acceptable.  But by the mid-1990s, Strugatsky realized that it was unlikely that anyone would still be interested in the petty squabbles and in-fighting of the now-defunct Soviet bureaucracy and gave up the idea of developing the book.  So ROADSIDE PICNIC stands alone—a testament to the writers’ stubborn refusal to surrender in the face of almost overwhelming government opposition to a simple idea, encapsulated in a rather ironic way by the book’s final wish:  Happiness for everybody, free, and no one will go away unsatisfied!

The Elizabeth Stories, Isabel Huggan

Eight stories tracing the growth of the child Elizabeth Kessler over a ten-year period (7-17) during the 1950s was published as The Elizabeth Stories by Oberon Press in 1984, and in 1987 by Viking Penguin in Great Britain and the United States, where it won the Quality Paperback New Voice Award in 1988 as well as the Best Fiction Prize from the Denver Quarterly. Huggan has won many awards for her writing.

I read the book in 1988 and enjoyed these stories about a girlhood in a small Ontario town very much. Elizabeth has a difficult mother who regards propriety as overly important. She is often misunderstood, often plays a subsidiary role in these stories but never plays a victim. I see this book is now categorized as YA but I don't remember it as anything other than a book of related stories about growing up. Are we not meant to take childhood seriously as adults? Huggan is a lovely writer and this is a model on how to write related stories.

Serge Angelini
Yvette Banek
Joe Barone
Les Blatt
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/Dan Stumpf 
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris
Richard Pangburn
James Reasoner
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer
Michael Slind
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple
Prashant Trikannad 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Life in the Theater: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF

We have probably all seen the movie version of this with Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor where the book's subtext of Brick's homosexuality is submerged beneath illusions of something else. We saw it in 1992 at the Hilberry Theater, which is the graduate repertory theater associated with Wayne State University in Detroit. A young actor, Thorsten Kaye, played Brick, the Newman role. I thought it would be fun to see whether he had any success after his years in Detroit and see he is currently on the tv show SMASH. He seems to have had steady if not spectacular success since 1992.

Here is a clip from the original Broadway version with Ben Gazarra and Barbara Bel Geddes

Crazy/Not Crazy

As my father aged, he began to give donations to anyone who asked. Not big amounts, mostly five dollars.

Today I made a donation to Wikipedia. Someone I live with said that was crazy. Wikimedia might not even be Wikipedia.

You vote.(and by the way, I told them I would alert people to their cash flow problems)

The Trouble with Audio Books

There were two articles in the NYT this past Sunday about audio books. I am a great fan of good audiobooks but I rarely find one that fits my needs. Virtually all people reading a traditional book are sitting in a chair, their full attention on the text in front of them.But...

People listening to audio books are 1) driving in the car 2) running 3) doing household chores as they listen 4) sitting in chair, their full attention on the voice next to them.

1-3 need a certain sort of book, and even more than that, a certain type of voice. I fall into the #3 category and like to listen to an audiobook while I cook, clean, etc. I never sit in a chair and listen to one. If I am sitting, I read a regular or Kindle book.

So because I am running water or moving as I listen, I need a reader that is a very clear speaker. Women don't usually work well. Nor do people with accents. So it is usually American books I listen to.
My favorite reader is Will Patton, who reads the James Lee Burke novels. The guy who read Plainsong was also terrific.But only about 1 in 5 audiobook works for me.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Do you see an advantage in having the actual writer read it? I would have thought I did until I heard Junot Diaz read his book of stories. His voice was so smart alecky I was even less inclined to finish the book.

Who is your favorite audiobook reader and what audiobook did you thing worked the best? I am looking for suggestions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday Night Music: Alabama Shakes


Well, thanks to my friend, Anthony, we were able to watch FIREFLY and these are my thoughts on the series.

Of course, ten years on I am sure they are very different than they would have been at the time. These ten years have provided us with some of the best TV there has ever been: THE WIRE, DEADWOOD, THE SOPRANOS, MAD MEN, BREAKING BAD, JUSTIFIED, THE GOOD WIFE to name but a few. Of course, these are almost all cable shows and that allows them more freedom, more time, and more money to produce fewer episodes. The best comparison might be to Whedon's earlier series, BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. And I think it has many commonalities with that although I only saw the first two seasons. Also I have found seeing a show daily rather than weekly diminishes it for me. Anticipation heightens enjoyment.

The strengths in the show are big:  the cast, the humor, the concept of a western and a space opera yoked together, the inventiveness of the language, the heart Whedon imbues his characters with, and the initial concept of each show. There is always an interesting idea presented early on. Perhaps too often that idea is not developed fully and the show ends with the typical fist fights, space fights--a flaw we also found in Buffy. Our heroes often save the day through fairly conventional means and not always very convincingly. The characters are rarely clever if that is an important trait.

A few episodes particularly stand out and my favorite was"Jaynestown," which was fun and brilliantly conceived. The strongest episodes were ones with a comic intentions for us. "Our Mrs. Reynolds" was also a winner, the great Christina Hendricks made it so.

I found the character of River tedious. Shepherd was similarly underdeveloped. Would either have been less so after time? I don't know. Although I liked the unpredictability of Jayne I found it hard to believe he would have been kept onboard after his betrayal in Ariel.

All in all, we enjoyed this series and I would have liked to follow it another year or two. Too bad.

Forgotten Movies: MAGIC TOWN

Directed by William Wellman in 1947 this is probably the first movie about polling, a subject which caught our attention so much last month. Starring Jimmy Stewart and Jane Wyman, it concerns a pollster, Rip Smith, who discovers a town where public opinion corresponds perfectly with the entire country (has to be in Ohio right). Wyman is the public-minded citizen who falls in love with him. The kick to the movie is that, of course, once they become aware of the reason for his visit, townspeople's opinions begin to change.

This is a slight movie that is enjoyable because of its stars and its low-keyed ambiance. I had no idea until I looked Wyman up on IMDB just how many movies she was making in the late forties. I wonder how her husband took this.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Crossing the Border, Ksenia Rychtycka

Ksenia Rychtycka was in a writing group I once belonged to.She brought an entirely new landscape to us each month with vividly realized characters in her writing. Her work felt European. Every story was polished, gem-like. It was fascinating to learn more and more about her Ukranian roots, the food and customs of her people, the relatives still there, the ones that came to the U.S. to earn money to send home, how things had changed there after the end of their domination by the USSR. 
I asked her to talk about her stories.

What border are you referring to in the title of your collection of stories?

I came up with the title Crossing The Border because it works on many levels : the characters in my stories are 1. physically relocating (some temporarily/some permanently) from one country to another (Ukraine to the United States and vice versa, and in one story Greece/US) and 2. also emotionally and psychologically – they’re crossing barriers/borders within themselves  to achieve some sort of closure or move on to the next step/phase  in their lives. So it's not like there's only one specific border.

Your writing always feels very European to me: the style, the characters, the pace. What writer has had the biggest influence on your writing?

Wow -- that is a tough question and I honestly don't think there is solely one writer. In terms of this collection I was really influenced by these story collections:
Arranged Marriage by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Krick? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
These books came out after I had already written a couple of the earlier stories but they were so helpful in showing me how it was possible to interweave cultural identity and history for an American audience. They also gave me confidence to keep moving forward with my own stories.

Do you expect the terrain and characters of your stories to change over time? Can you picture yourself writing a story with no immigrants, no European countries, no borders? America is a hegemonic culture and I wonder if it submerges voices that struggle to remain true to themselves. I guess it comes down to this: is the voice in your head the same as when you began to write?
That is a very interesting question that you are posing! At this point in time I don't see myself completely moving away from my Ukrainian background in my work. When you read Lahiri's prose or Divakaruni's, you are still getting large elements of their cultural background past their first books. So I don't know that I could completely separate myself from that simply because I'm still very connected to my cultural background. My husband is from Ukraine, I speak Ukrainian to my mother, we celebrate Ukrainian traditions, etc. Perhaps if I lived in an isolated community without the cultural diversity of a big city it would be different. What I think may change is the subject matter that I address -- I don't plan to write more stories about the early years of the post-Soviet era or even the current situation in Ukraine but I think that in some way there will be elements of my background within my work.

Why did you choose to end the collection with the 2004 Orange Revolution?

I wanted the book to end on a positive note, during the great moment of possibility for change. Although events in Ukraine have not gone the way many people had hoped, it was still an amazing and breakthrough time. I also had left Ukraine a few years before the Orange Revolution, and I felt that this was a good stopping point and that the stories worked together as a cohesive whole.

What are you working on next?   

I'm currently writing poems and have a project in mind about four medieval historical women who were sisters. This may or may not turn into a prose piece.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saturday Night Music: Sharon Van Etten

Thinking About Short Stories

I just read a short story that I think was sabotaged by too many characters, too many separate scenes, too much complexity. The writing was good though so I waded through. But the ending didn't turn it around. The story was more like a blueprint for an eventual novel than a short story to me.

When I studied writing, the professor said that he felt three or four characters was the most there should be in a short story. He also felt it should play out in as few scenes as possible. I seem to have taken that to heart because most of my stories are sparsely populated. "Scrapping", for instance, in an issue of PANK, has three characters and basically three scenes. "Mermaids" in OFF THE RECORD: AT THE MOVIES has five characters but only two scenes. "How to Launder a Shirt" is basically a monologue about three people.. "Undetectable" in PULP INK 2 has four characters but only three really figure in. In other words, in a short story, I don't think you have time to develop many characters and it confuses the reader to try and keep track of too many.

What do you think? I know in the right hands a short story could work with a dozen characters but in average hands, how many is too many characters, settings, scenes?

Perhaps I am under-populating my stories and I shouldn't have listened to that guy.

And here is another question. In a short story, how specific do you like a locale to be? Would you rather have a writer say. 'he's moving up north." Or pinpoint it in a state, "he's moving up to Ipswich."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Beautiful Women of the Silver Screen: Kim Novak

My review of FLIGHT is up on Crimespree Cinema.

The Summing Up, Friday, November 23, 2012

The Summing Up, Friday, November 23, 2012

Serge Angelini, NIGHTMARE (1941) by Cornell Woolrich

Brian Busby,  The Lane That Had No Turning and Other Tales Concerning the People of Pontiac
Gilbert Parker

Bill Crider, Tales from Super-Science Fiction -- Edited by Robert Silverberg

 Scott Cupp, Rip Hunter, Time Master by Jack Miller and various artists,

Martin Edwards, The Sweepstake Murders, J. J. Connington

Curt Evans,  One Murdered, Two Dead (1936), by Milton M. Propper

Ed Gorman,  Deadlier Than The Male by James Gunn 

Jerry House, The Green Queen by Margaret St. Clair (1956)

Nick Jones,  Assignment to Disaster, Edward S. Aarons 


B.V. Lawson, Red Christmas, Patrick Ruell 

Juri Nummelin, David Hume: Midnight's Last Bow

James Reasoner,  Blonde Bait - Ed Lacy (Leonard Zinberg)

Ron Scheer Gilbert Parker, Northern Lights 

Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, SHARKS NEVER SLEEP, William F. Nolan -

Prashant Trikannad, Saddle on a Cloud, Frank C. Robertson

Friday Forgotten Books, Friday, November 23, 2012

                                      Taking a week off here.  Hope you had a great holiday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Life at the Theater: ONE TOUCH OF VENUS

We saw this episodically charming musical at the Shaw Festival at Niagara on the Lake in 2010. The show was written by Ogden Nash and S.J. Perelman, with the music by Kurt Weil. The clip above is from a Broadway version. It has also been made into a film with Ava Gardner. The book isn't particularly riveting but a lot of the music and staging was fun. It's the story of the goddess, Venus, brought to life.
For musical theater lovers, there are some lovely songs.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Opening Credits:Mighty Mouse

Mysteries Set in a Country House

Margot Kinberg, on her excellent blog, was talking about mysteries set in a country house the other day. I tried in vain to come up with an American one, but I couldn't think of one. It may be because the country home, where the upper classes can hunt and ride, is more a part of their social class system than ours.

I think Americans with a second house are more prone to have the house at the beach or in the mountains. Can you think of a US mystery set in a classic country house? There must be some from the days when the beach and skiing were not as prevalent.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday Night Music: Paloma Faith

Has Thanksgiving Become Completely Homogenized Over Time

 This may be it, Ron.

Cookbook:Grotten Hans

Grotten Hans
Category Bread recipes
Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Difficulty Medium
Cookbook | Ingredients | Recipes
Grotten Hans is a recipe that has been called a big dumpling but is basically steamed sweet bread. The recipe was traditional in the German areas of Russia.[1]



  1. Cream lard, sugar and salt. Add eggs. Mix flour and baking powder.
  2. Add this flour mixture to the lard mixture alternatively with the milk. Mix well.
  3. Pour into a well-greased 2-pound coffee can. A piece of wax paper on the bottom of the can works well. Cover with foil, and tie this on with a string.
  4. Set this tin into a large kettle of hot water several (3) inches deep. This will steam the dumpling. Cook for 2 hours. The old way was to dip a towel in hot water, then cold water, then sprinkle with flour.
  5. Pour dumpling onto towel and tie up. Drop into boiling water and cook 2 hours.

A nice piece on Charles Portis in the LA REVIEW OF BOOKS.

Do we all eat the same six or seven things for Thanksgiving...turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes,  some vegetable that nobody touches, pumpkin pie.

Or is there one dish that is your family's own?

We always have cole slaw. Not sure if this came from my German ancestry or not? No one else seems to regard it as part of the Thanksgiving dinner. More like a summer salad or a barbecue go-with.
Also turnips were a staple-not a favorite with me since the year my Dad got sick in the serving dish.

What about your family? Anything new I should add to my repertoire?


Although I would  not have made a reunion film without Richard Thomas as John Boy, the actor here does a fairly good job of playing him. Everyone else, save Grandpa, is here (1982), a year after the show was cancelled. The children are grown. But the good feelings remain. They did another one a decade later, which I have never seen.

I am glad the Waltons are still around on a cable station. We need shows like this to remind us you can be religious without being censorious, intolerant and excluding. Will Geer and Ralph Waite had a lot to do with that, I think. When I think of a Christian role model, I think of Olivia Walton.

Sad that none of the kids went on to something else but that rarely happens.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Great Movie Themes: THE STING

Say Something Good about Detroit: HOORAY FOR lOVE AND THE CADIEUX CAFE

This is a resurrection of MY TOWN MONDAY, which I always felt guilty about giving up. The title borrows somewhat from a novel set in Detroit by Scott Lasser. I invite any Detroiter out there to write a piece for this series.

On Friday night we attended a CD release party for two friends of ours and their band at the Cadieux Cafe. The CD is called HOORAY FOR LOVE and the music is sort of a bluesy-rock.

From their website: 

The Cadieux Cafe is in Detroit, about three miles from our house.It offer featherbowling, steamed mussels, more than a dozen beers from Belgium. As the bumper sticker on the wall says, "It's Beautiful To Be Belgian." Since its days as a Prohibition-era speakeasy, the Cadieux Cafe has been a social hub for metro Detroit's Belgian population, much of who settled in this area. Flemish culture flourishes at the Cadieux, which is or has been the unofficial headquarters for an array of clubs promoting pastimes from across the pond, including pigeon racing, archery, bicycling, darts and, of course, feather bowling. The Michigan Traditional Arts Program awarded the Cadieux the Michigan Heritage Award for "continuing family and community cultural traditions with excellence and authenticity."

The Cadieux Cafe has been owned by the Devos family since the '60s, with a new generation taking over 10 years ago. They've been careful to maintain the place's old-world charm and traditions, but they've also made it more accessible to the masses -- particularly the 21-35 year-old demographic -- by bringing in live musical acts and staying open until 2 a.m. daily. It's still beautiful to be Belgian at the Cadieux Cafe, but you're more than welcome to pretend.

The Black Hat, the band we went to hear, is the love child of Frank.Koscielski, who in his spare time is a labor history professor at Wayne State. Many of the lyrics to the songs are written by Caroline Maun, a poet, English professor, Frank's main squeeze, and a beloved member of my writing group.

Frank suffered a nearly fatal motorcycle accident last year and much of the inspiration for this CD came from that experience. Michigan now allows riders to drive without helmets. Frank would have died had he not been wearing one.

Do you have a place like the Cadieux Cafe in your city/town

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Three Songs for Three People

Lots of songs remind me of the people in my life. But if I had to chose one for each of them, these are my choices. These might not be the song they associate with themselves, but they are songs I do. What songs do you associate with people in your life.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Beautiful Women of the Silver Screen: Louise Brooks

The Summing Up, Friday, November 16, 2012

                                   My brother, Jeff's wedding in  August, 1978.

 The Summing Up, Friday, November 16, 2012

Patti Abbott , The Search for Warren Harding, Robert Plunket
Sergio Angelini , The Zebra-Striped Hearse, Ross Macdonald
Brian Busby , The Kidnapping of the President, Charles Templeton
Bill Crider, The Comeback, Dan J. Maarlowe
Scott Cupp, Hazards, Mike Resnick
Martin Edwards, The Stoat, Lynn Brock
Curt Evans,  Bamburg Bog, Phoebe Atwood Taylor
Ed Gorman, A Touch of Death, Charles Williams
Randy Johnson, Frankincense and Murder, Baynard Kendrick
Nick Jones, Operation Drumfire, Dan J. Marlowe
George Kelly, The Weird, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Margot Kinberg, The Paris Lawyer, Sylvie Granotier
B.V. Lawson, Mystery of he Queen Mary, Bruce Graeme
Evan Lewis, 42 Days for Murder, Roger Torrey
Steve Lewis/William F. Deeck, The Chinese Doll, Wilson Tucker
Todd Mason, Dark Descent, ed. David Hartwell
J.F. Norris, The Double Death of Frederic Belot, Claude Aveline
Richard Pangburn, Thanksgiving, Michael Dibdin
Deb Pfeifer, Looking Glass Justice, Jeffrey Ashford
James Reasoner, The Brat, Gil Brewer
Richard Robinson, The Mother Goose Murders, Walter Gibson
Gerard Saylor Escape Clause, James O. Born
Ron Scheer, The Hearts of the Red Firs, Ada Woodruff Anderson
Michael Slind,  The Queen is Dead, Ellery Queen
Kerrie Smith, The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender, Marele Day
Kevin Tipple/Patrick Ohl, The John Riddell Murder Case, John Riddell
Prashant Trikannad, The Lone Deputy, Wayne D. Overholser
TomCat, The Moon Rock, Arthur J.Rees

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 16, 2012

***I will be taking next Friday off from Forgotten Books since I am cooking the day before. If anyone posts a review, I will pick them up late in the day Friday or on Saturday. Thanks. Happy Thanksgiving

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

spent a good share of last night reading Hard Case Crime's snappy edition of A Touch of Death by Charles Williams and I'll say what I've said before about this book. It likely has more plot turns than just about any suspense novel I can ever recall reading.

One of Charles Williams' amoral failed men narrate. He was briefly a football star. Now he's a busted real estate agent. No wonder he gets interested, after initial reluctance, in stealing an one hundred twenty thousand dollars that a bank president took from his own bank. The woman who convinces him to help her makes it sound simple. It's probably in this mansion. All you have to do is get in there and find it. The bank president's wife won't be home for two days. You'll have plenty of time.

Right. Well, we know better than that, don't we? Yes, he gets in but he finds he's not alone. The woman is there, beautiful beyond description, and drunk beyond belief. But so is a killer. After saving her life, failed star takes her to a cabin in the woods where he plans to persuade her to tell him where the money is.

That's the beginning. Everybody in this book is a professional liar. And the bank president's wife is the most fatale of femmes. She lies on virtually every page and occasionally almost gets them killed. That she knows where the money is is obvious. That she killed her husband is also obvious. But who is trying to kill her and why?

While Touch isn't as rich in characterization as most Williams its construction is so dazzling it doesn't matter for once. And as always there is the mordant undertow of all major Williams novels--failure, violence, oblivion.  Most Williams is now available on Otto Penzler's Mysterious Press e book site.

(Review by Deb)
I picked up Jeffrey Ashford’s LOOKING-GLASS JUSTICE the day after the election.  I was expecting a competent mystery of the “British police procedural” genre—and I certainly got that; but perhaps because the vitriol of the presidential campaign was still ringing in my ears—with its talk of “one percent,” “ninety-nine percent,” “job creators,” “makers and takers,” “free stuff,” etc.—I also found an interesting subtext in the book: Almost everyone in it, including members of the police force, feels some resentment toward other people who apparently have more wealth, power, or possessions than they have (especially when the objects of that resentment act in peremptory and arbitrary ways to achieve their ends)—and they sometimes make far-reaching decisions based on that resentment.  As one character puts it, “It’s not money that’s the root of all evil—it’s the need of money.”
The book opens in Africa, where we are introduced to a man named Esme Lynch.  He is in Sierra Leone to acquire “blood diamonds.” In a few short pages, Ashford lets us see that Lynch is a thoroughly unpleasant character, not one to run afoul of.  In quick succession we meet Dijkstal, the Dutchman who possesses the diamonds Lynch covets, Drury, a man whose function is never made explicit, and Carol, a faded prostitute hired to be a “diamond mule.”  Because this is Sierra Leone and because the diamond trade there is illegal as well as highly-profitable, we’re not surprised that both Lynch and Dijkstal travel with the protection of well-armed mercenaries; nor are we surprised when violence erupts as the men meet to transact the diamond exchange.
Meanwhile, back in England, the marriage of a wealthy couple, Dick and Portia Frayne, continues on its unhappy path.  Portia, a nouveau-riche shrew, has married the penniless Dick because of his “to the manor born” background, but she uses her money (and the threat of its withdrawal) to cudgel those around her—husband, friends, servants—into doing her will, even when it’s the wrong thing to do.  Dick has reconciled himself to his marriage to the colossally self-centered Portia in exchange for the material goods she can provide.  He is, however, in love with the married Francesca, whose husband is in the final stages of early-onset Alzheimer’s.  Francesca reciprocates Dick’s feelings, but she remains loyal to her husband, who lives in a nursing home.  Dick knows that he cannot forgo the world he lives in due to his wife’s money, but he still visits Francesca and takes solace in her quiet strength and integrity (which he knows he does not possess).  Although she is in very reduced circumstances, Francesca is the character who least envies what others have.  In a way, she is the moral center of the book—and the only one who commits a completely selfless act to help another.
But what does a mismatched suburban couple have to do with blood diamonds?  Nothing—until Carol, recently returned from Sierra Leone and still in possession of the diamonds, is killed at dusk by a hit-and-run driver on a lonely rural road not far from Dick and Portia’s home.  The Fraynes come into the police’s orbit when a car similar to Portia’s is witnessed driving away from the accident that killed Carol.  Dick sees immediately that Portia’s antagonism and stubborn refusal to allow the police to examine her vehicle will only make her appear guilty in the eyes of law enforcement, but his attempts to explain this reasonably to his wife fall on deaf ears. 
Portia’s friend, Winifred, can provide her with an alibi for the night in question; but Portia fails to see that Winifred (like Dick, a member of the upper class who has fallen on hard times) resents Portia’s wealth and the high-handed attitude that goes with it.  Thus, when the police arrive to interview Winifred, the alibi she provides for Portia is neither solid nor given with much conviction. This—along with Portia’s own intransigence—leads the police to eye Portia with much more suspicion than they previously had.  Portia continues obliviously on her obstructionist path, assuming that her wealth and her very expensive lawyer will keep her safe from the clutches of the law.
Yes, Portia is safe from the law—but is she safe from Esme Lynch?  While Carol’s body lays unclaimed in the local morgue, Lynch is being forced to borrow heavily from underworld “creditors” until he can retrieve the diamonds.  We already know that Lynch is not above any level of violence—including murder—to attain his ends.  When he decides that he must intervene in police matters to ensure that Carol’s body is released, things begin to look very bad for the Fraynes—especially Portia.
The very title of the book implies that when justice comes, it will not come through the usual channels, but will be dispensed in a sort of karmic looking-glass fashion.  This is exactly right.  The long arm of the law sometimes isn’t long enough, but the guilty are punished, in a fashion, anyway.  LOOKING-GLASS JUSTICE isn’t a comforting book, but—in today’s polarized economic climate—I found it an extremely relevant one.


I read this book in 1990, but I believe it was first published in 1983. Jonathan Yardley declared it one of the funniest books American has produced and I remember it as a pretty good read. I am always looking for a funny novel, which seem scarcer every year.

Elliot Weiner is a young historian specializing in President Warren G. Harding. In  search of a new angle, he moves to LA and into the pool house of Rebekah Kinney, Harding's former mistress. Elliot eavesdrops and insinuates himself into her life (via her granddaughter) with comic results. He eventually learn that there's a trunkful of Harding letters in the main house so the novel's second half involves his screwball efforts to get  the trunk.

This is a novel that will either work for you and seem zany and hilarious or instead seem strained, heavy-handed or mean. Weiner's observations on LA life are of the catty sort--he is not a terribly likable character.

Most people doing research on Presidents usually are though in my experience.

Sergio Angelini
Brian Busby
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Curt Evans
Randy Johnson
Nick Jones
George Kelly
Margot Kinberg
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/William F. Deeck
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris
Richard Pangburn
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer
Michael Slind
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple/Patrick Ohl
Prashant Trikannad

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Life at the Theater: Love and Anger

George F. Walker is a renown Canadian playwright whose work should be performed in the U.S. more often. I saw this play at the Attic Theater in Detroit in 1992. Sad to say, I have little memory of it. It originally opened at the Factory Theater (Toronto) in 1989 to positive reviews and standing ovations. It examines a variety of moral issues through the metaphor  of class conflict as embodied in the lives of society's downtrodden. But it is also a comedy.
Walker wrote 19 comedies in 20 years at the time that this one was in Detroit. He is known for making the bizarre believable.
The Attic Theater was big on socially relevant plays as I look through my programs from the years it existed. The Attic was the baby of Lavinia Moyer who still directs theater in Detroit.

All the News That's Fit to Print

I rarely watch the evening news for various reasons, but Phil still turns it on and last night I couldn't help hearing that the bad review in the NYT of Guy Fieri's new restaurant on Times Square was mentioned. On the news! The review in the Times yesterday was perhaps the worst review of anything I have ever read. My favorite line was that the marshmallows taste like fish. Why marshmallows I wanted to ask?

But why was the restaurant or the review mentioned on the news? Fieri is certainly more of a celebrity than a chef--is this why? Will this bad review and the media delight in it hurt or help him? Perhaps tourists, clearly the intended patrons of a restaurant on Times Square, will only remember his name and it will be a huge success. I know (ahem) a lot of men who love his FOOD NETWORK show.

If you google his name today, not a single publication or news outlet fails to mention this review. Maybe there is not such thing as bad publicity but read the review and you will wonder.

With all that's going on in the world, can an 18 minutes network newscast afford to waste time on this? Well, yes, because the news spends its last 5 minutes on similar stories every night. Stories geared to the aging population that hasn't discarded its habit of getting their news this way.

Do you listen to the evening news? How do you get your news?

For the record, I read the NYT in the morning although not thoroughly. And I listen to NPR off and one over the day. And I catch bits and pieces from MSNBC, which is on after five here, pretty much nonstop.