Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013


Week Off

I am going to take a week off to reve up my engines. A few odd pieces might pop up, and Evan Lewis will be doing the Forgotten Books on Friday. I feel of in need of a break, but there is no health issues to concern me.


Say Something Good About Detroit: Dr. Robin Boyle, Chair of the Department of Urban Studies at W.SU. in Detroit

I leaned heavily on Dr. Robin Boyle to give me a positive piece for my blog. He kindly allowed me to publish this one. Dr. Boyle came to the US from Glasgow, another challenged urban area.

Robin Boyle is Professor of Urban Planning and Chair of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), Wayne State University (WSU) in Detroit, Michigan.
Active in professional organizations, he is co-chair of the Detroit chapter of the Urban Land Institute [ULI] and serves on the board of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance. In 2004 he was nominated to the Planning Board for the City of Birmingham, Mi., becoming chair in 2006.
Research interests include (1) planning and design for an aging society, (2) investment patterns in residential and retail development, (3) the issue of vacant land in central cities. This work led to securing funding from the Land Policy Program at MSU and to collaboration with the Michigan Suburbs Alliance (MSA) and in particular their successful Redevelopment Ready Communities initiative.


Introduced by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing in the fall of 2010, the Detroit Works Project was conceived “as a process to create a shared, achievable vision for our future that would serve as a guide to help improve the physical, social and economic landscape of our city”. Largely funded by the foundation community, notably the Kresge Foundation of Troy, Michigan, the initial project was led by a NYC architect, Ms. Toni Griffin, whose task was, with a local firm of architects and designers (led by Dan Kinkead of Hamilton Anderson Associates), to manage a multi-national team of planning and design consultants, including world-renown Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. In July of 2011 Mayor Dave Bing introduced the Short Term Actions strategy of the Detroit Works Project and announced the separation of the project into two tracks—Short Term Actions and Long Term Planning.  This Long Term Planning project eventually morphed into Detroit Future City, published at the beginning of 2013.

But first, some largely forgotten planning history.

In 1970, the third volume of the 1965-1970 Detroit Plan was released with the sub-heading: “A Concept for Future Development”.  This study/plan, embracing 23,000 square miles of southeastern Michigan, with Detroit as its central city, became the road map for the region and for a generation. “Build-out” across the suburbs, with new community development spreading from Toledo to the Thumb of Michigan, from Windsor in Canada all the way to Jackson and beyond, became the de facto development pattern for the region. This grand plan for Detroit’s metropolitan region never achieved its lofty goals or ambitious targets but it did drive sprawl across the burgeoning suburban landscape. And despite some fine ideas in the plan, it did precious little to stem the loss of business, jobs and people from Detroit.  In contrast, I contend that the Detroit Plan played a critical role in the hollowing out of the city.

As if you need reminding, the population in the city of Detroit in 1970 was measured at 1,670,114; by 2010 the Census recorded 713,777 residents in the city, a loss of 58 percent over 40 years.

Forty-three years after the conclusion of the Detroit Plan, Detroit Future City brought to the public, to business and community leaders, and to government planners a wholly different trajectory for Detroit. Using its full and more useful title: Detroit Future City – Detroit Strategic Framework Plan this is, in my opinion, the most comprehensive, most engaged and most relevant plan I have seen in the past quarter century in any city in America’s troubled heartland. It embraces the structural economic shocks that have and continue to disrupt whole communities once predicated on making things. It lays bare the reality of spatial segregation – by class, color and community. It doesn’t hide from the community impact of poverty, of joblessness, of abandonment, of emptiness across too much of Detroit.

Then it turns to find possibility in this the most devastated of the rust-belt cities. To draw from the Plan’s Executive Summary, this possibility can be found not merely in terms of location on the Detroit River, or available land or its institutional bones but in the “resiliency, creativity, and ingenuity of its people and organizations–the city’s human and social capital”.

The content of the Plan is similarly broad-based and impressive. The survey, analysis and prescription that are found in the Plan’s Five Elements are interconnected, sophisticated, nuanced and perhaps most importantly, useful.  The Plan skillfully incorporates recommendations that are grounded in the possibilities of the city and its residents but also reflective and inclusive of some of the most advanced ideas in land use planning and redesign. And it doesn’t end with simply a catalogue of transformative ideas. It looks deep in the weeds of ownership, of management and of coordination. It forces the reader to address the imperatives for public action and the impact that action can have on the city and its future.

And finally, this Plan began with a commitment to civic engagement, to genuine and authentic participation from all peoples and parts of Detroit. Despite some huge challenges and an often-toxic political and fiscal environment, the people that made Detroit Future City stayed the course, developing the plan and its recommendations in the full glare of public scrutiny and with almost endless community involvement.

The challenge, now, is moving forward with implementation and real change. The Kresge Foundation and others have committed to this process, with Dan Kinkead and Heidi Alcock (shifting recently from Community Legal Resources) leading a new nonprofit agency with just this charge. But they face a Herculean task, made all the difficult by the fragility of the region’s economy, the depth of underinvestment-private and public-in the city and the dark clouds of insolvency hanging over the city, its workers, residents and investors.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Night Poetry: Celebrations in the Ossuary, Kyle J. Knapp

David Cranmer is slowly publishing the poems of his nephew, Kyle, who died a few months ago.

Let me share just one here--I hope you will consider buying the collection because the money made will go to his family and his college. The book is available on David's blog and will soon appear on Amazon. This is a young man who had so much to offer, so much to say. Listen to him. 

The Perfect Day

Give me just a day
Of homemade wine,
Spray-painted sunflowers,
19th century prose,
Sordid, puerile jokes,
Dried maple leaves to crush in our palms
A pale too-old sun to dance beyond
And her laughter—

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Night Music: Coney Island Baby

Whose Books Do You Want to Read as Soon as They're Released?

I heard Daniel Woodrell talk about this book two years ago and having been waiting for it ever since. I will hold it in my hot hands as soon as its available.

Whose books do you feel that way about?

Friday, August 23, 2013


I haven't posted one of these in a while but decided to give one a try. This time the prompt comes from a headline from 1913 in a Detroit paper


I have no idea what the story was about because the print is so tiny. And I don't want to know, nor should you. Make it your own story. Feel free to change Michigan to whatever state or place you want. In fact, I suggest it. Maybe the places will factor in heavily. So the title of every story will be the same except for the place.The locales can make it zing.

The story should be 1000 words or less. If you have a blog, I will post the link. If not, I will post the story. Fall is a busy time so let's make the end date Sept 26th.

Let me know if you plan on writing a story and let me know again before the date. Please don't post it ahead of time if possible. I know some of you can write a story a lot faster than the rest of us, but it's more fun if they all get "birthed" the same day. 

Are you in?

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, August 23, 2013

Next week Evan Lewis will gather links. Thanks!

Patti Abbott, November by Georges Simenon (from 2010)
This is one of Simenon’s standalones, which I generally prefer to the more formulaic Maigrets. A French family lives comfortably, if claustrophobically, outside of town. The first person narrator is twenty-one and works at the local hospital as a research assistant. She’s having a rather prosaic affair with her employer, an older scientist. Her younger brother is taking classes at the local college, majoring in chemistry.
The two siblings live with their parents in a state of constant tension. The mother is an alcoholic, and goes on binges that the rest of the family calls ‘novenas’. Her behavior seems to date from the beginning of her marriage and has almost a formal structure to it. The tension of her behavior is palpable throughout the story.
A newly hired maid, a sexually obliging sort of girl, Manuela from Spain, brings some needed air into this hothouse. Both father and son begin sleeping with her. Neither is satisfied with this arrangement.
When Manuela disappears. it is unclear what has happened and the ambiguity will either intrigue or annoy you. The ending is surprising, yet fitting. This was not my favorite Simenon and yet it succeeded in keeping my interest. Short novels stand a better chance of doing that.

Sergio Angelini, ORACLE NIGHT,  Paul Auster
Bill Crider, THE TALL T, Elmore Leonard
Martin Edwards, TOP STOREY MURDER, Anthony Berkley
Curt Evans, THE INTRUSIVE TOURIST, Mrs. Baillie Reynolds
Ray Garraty, THE SOUR LEMON SCORE, Richard Stark
Ed Gorman, Forotten author: John O'Hara
Jerry House, THE EUREKA YEARS Annette Pelz McComas
Randy Johnson, NIGHT AND THE CITY, Gerald Kersh
Nick Jones. FIFTY-TWO PICKUP, Elmore Leonard
George Kelley, THE AMPHIBIANS AND THE WORLD BELOW, Sl. Fowler Wright
Margot Kinbert, THE MESSENGER FROM ATHENS, Anne Zaroudi
Kate Laity, IN A LONELY PLACE, Dorothy B. Hughes
B.V. Lawson,MALCOLM SAGE, DETECTIVE, Herbert Jenkins
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, THE DEATH OF THE KING'S CANARY, Dylan Thomas and John     Davenport
Todd Mason, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, 1964, edited by Avram Davidson
J.F. Norris, THE CRIPPLED MUSE, Hugh Wheeler
James Reasoner, MASKED INVASION, Curtis Steele
Kelly Robinson, CARMILLA, J.S. Le Fanu
Gerard Saylor, BEETHOVEN CONSPIRACY, Thomas Hauser
Ron Scheer, GUN MAN, Loren D. Estleman
Michael Slind, THE COLORADO KID, Stephen King
Kerrie Smith, MURDER BY THE BOOK, Jennifer Rowe
Kevin Tipple, BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL, Elliott Chaze

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How Long Do You Stick with a Book?

                                          Music at the Diego Rivera Court at the D.I.A.

How long do you stick with a book? With me, it varies. Sometimes I know in a page or two. The voice or writing style just puts me off. I have also put a book aside 40 pages before the end. I recently read that you should give a book 100 pages minus your age. I guess the older you are, the less time you have left to read so don't tie yourself up with a book you don't like. Do you have a rule?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday Theme Music: THE GRADUATE

Good actors miscast

So many, many examples but this one is near the top of my list. George Clooney is not Batman and never will be. Why did anyone think he was? Understanding who is Batman is part of the game.

It is hard to separate miscasts in bad movies like this one though. Or Tom Hanks in BONFIRE or Kevin Costner in ROBIN HOOD.

Who else?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuesday Night Music: Valerie June

KWIK KRIMES, Otto Penzler

I am delighted to be included in this volume of 90 flash fiction stories. I find myself among some
sterling company. I thank Mr. Penzler for including me.

Entire novels are often written about a single crime, detailing every gruesome, dark detail until the last drop of blood spatters across the page. Yet in this mystery anthology, renowned editor and author Otto Penzler weaves together to heart-stopping effect more than ninety tales of brutality, terror, and unexpected demise, with each story told in a swift one thousand words or less.
These crimes may be fast in both form and fallout, but none lack the dark impulses that too often guide human hands to ill ends. Prepare to be transported into the diabolical schemes of criminal masterminds…into robberies and pranks gone horribly awry…into closets crammed with skeletons…into families bound not by love but wickedness.
Authors include Peter Blauner, Ken Bruen, Rob W. Hart, K. A. Laity, Tasha Alexander, Patricia Abbott, Bruce DeSilva, Chuck Caruso, Gregory Gibson, Joe R. Lansdale, and many more.


Here is the interview Megan did with him for the LA TIMES a few years back. Glad we did our Elmore Leonard day recently. I saw him several times over the last year and he never lost his zest for life although he'd grown fragile. Amazing writer. 


Can any Al Pacino movie really be forgotten? I think this--his first--is a bit.
Almost scary enough to be a cautionary tale. Pacino and Winn play two lovers who get caught up in heroin addiction in New York in the early seventies. Pacino went from this to the THE GODFATHER. A highly realistic film, so seldom done now. Seventies movies always rock for me. Winn went on to obscurity.

I wonder if this film is more often talked about than watched.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Opening Credits: RAGING BULL

Hard to beat this one.

DARE ME in paperback --Giveways

Right here.

Some books Phil had recently enjoyed.

Phil really enjoyed THE EX-PATS by Chris Pavone, A CORPSE IN KORYO by James Church-both crime novels. He also liked THE ORPHAN MASTER'S SON by Adam Johnson and YELLOW BIRD by Kevin Powers, which he thought to be the best book he had read in years.

He is now reading THE FORGIVEN by Lawrence Osborn.

What books are being read by your spouse/kids/friends? Do you discuss books with them? Is their much overlap? Phil and I have very little overlap but I usually know what books he will like if I read a review. We also tend to like the same books as a couple we know so we can pass books and recommendations back and forth. Do your real life friends read similarly to you or just your online pals?

P.S. Asked my son this question at dinner and Josh chose MIDDLESEX and THE MARRIAGE PLOT (Eugenides), and the STEVE JOBS biography as his three most recent reads.


To see various responses, click here. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday Night Poetry. e. e. Cummings

Speaking of BE MY BABY

A great piece in the NYT today on its influence on almost everything that came after.

Who Should Bernadette Read?

Although Bernadette is going to post this question on her own blog, I thought we might have some suggestions for her here too. A few days ago, she wrote she was not familiar with American crime fiction writers and the ones she had tried (Cain, Chandler, Lehane, Connelly) were not for her.

Here's what she said next.

Patti my problem is I suppose I don't know where to start with American male authors. The non-American male authors I really like include Alan Glynn, Adrian McKinty, Peter Temple, Garry Disher, Deon Meyer, Geoffrey McGeachin, Reginald Hill, Adrian Hyland, Johan Theorin, Domingo Villar, Andrea Camilleri.

I don't really expect you to deduce from all of that the perfect American bloke for me to start reading but you've prompted me to write my own post about this subject.

Who would you recommend for Bernadette based on this list? I have to admit these writers are not exactly like US writers, are they? I have read the first three and
seem to reflect on their society in their books.

Bernadette is Australian and you can find her blog here

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday Night Music: America

What Song Epitomizes Your Days as a Teenager?

I have probably asked this before.

For me, there are really two songs.

BE MY BABY (The Ronettes) reminds of the first boy I came as close as a fifteen-sixteen year old can come to loving.

The second one is WHERE DID OUR LOVE GO? (Supremes). I was sixteen also and newly finished with that boy. I had a summer job working as a waitress in a resort town. That song blared from every car radio that summer. It epitomized the end of that going nowhere relationship and the beginning of being on my own. Of course, another n'er do well boy came along...

I wonder if most songs you love as a teenager do this. What about you?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Night Music: THE BEACH BOYS

My review of FRUITVALE STATION appears on CRIMESPREE MAGAZINE. Great movie.

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, August 16, 2013

I often find it interesting to see which writers shows up on here often and who doesn't. I fully expected to see Nicholas Freeling, Sjowal and Wahloo, Sayers, Marsh, Tey, Ross Macdonald, Colin Dexter, P.D. James, Peter Dickinson, Tony Hillerman, Ruth Rendell, Sara Paretsky, Margaret Maron, Michael Connelly, etc. to turn up here week after week, and yet they are rarely represented. Perhaps they are not forgotten enough. Or mostly read by women when most of the reviewers here are men. I am not sure.  

But if I had to list my top ten crime fiction writers, Nicholas Freeling would be on the list. And one of my favorite of his novels was GUN BEFORE BUTTER.

GUN BEFORE BUTTER concerns the fabulous Lucienne Englebert who plagues, delights, and captures Van Der Valk's attention over the years. Gun Before Butter, Freeling’s third novel, centers around dual identity and commodity smuggling in the European market. It is almost as much a romance as a crime fiction story. 

Its heroine, Lucienne, is a free spirit, similar in many ways to Van der Valk, who finds the straitlaced Dutch inhibiting. She is put away by him for a minor crime and when released goes on a spending spree across Europe. There is a recurring motif from Shakespeare, a lot of drinking and the high life, and a May-December romance with a tragic outcome, as well as an overview of 1960s Amsterdam and the people who inhabited it. 

I am less fond of the Henri Castang novels set in Paris than these earlier (11) Van der Valk ones. But to me he is an essential crime fiction writer. Much heralded in his lifetime, I wonder if he is mostly forgotten now, ten years after his death. 

Sergio Angelini, SHOTGUN, Ed McBain
Joe Barone, NOW MAY YOU WEEP, Deborah Crombie
Brian Busby, TORCH OF VIOLENCE, Gerald Laing
Bill Crider, STRANGER AT HOME, George Sanders (Leigh Brackett)
Scott Cupp, STALKING THE ZOMBIE, Mike Resnick
Martin Edwards, KEEP IT QUIET, Richard Hull
Jerry House, THE KILLER, Chris North (Ed Gorman)
Randy Johnson, THE SPUR: Loki's Rock Mark Ellis
Nick Jones, GOLD COAST, Elmore Leonard
George Kelley, THE LEGION OF SPACE, Jack Williamson
B.V. Lawson, THE PLOT THICKENS, Mary Higgins Clark
Steve Lewis, COUNTRY AND FATAL, George Bagby
Todd Mason, LAUGHING MATTERS, Gene Shalit
J.F. Norris, THE EIGHTH SQUARE, Herbert Lieberman
Juri Nummelin, THE VAMPIRE AFFAIR, Livia Reasoner
James Reasoner, SPY KILLER, L. Ron Hubbard
Kelly Robinson, IRONSIDE, Jim Thompson
Richard Robinson, BLOODHOUNDS, Peter Lovesey
Gerard Saylor, ODD AND THE FROST GIANTS, Neil Gaiman
Ron Scheer, SNAKE EYES, Jory Sherman
Michael Slind, REBECCA'S PRIDE, Donald McNutt Douglass
Kevin Tipple, THE GREAL MERLINI, Clayton Rawson
TomCat, THE CAVALIER'S CUP, Carter Dickson (John Dickson Carr)

Thursday, August 15, 2013


This makes me cry every time.

What Crime Fiction Writer Do You Keep Meaning to Read?

For me, Denise Mina. She wins all the awards (Old Theakston the last two years)
and I keep meaning to read her. Have even started one or two of her early books and found them a bit hard to get into. I do not persevere much, demanding immediate accessibility to the world of the book.

Who should you have read but haven't?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Series I Want to Watch Again and Ones I Do Not

As I am watching the final days of DEXTER and BREAKING BAD, I badly want to see BB again from the beginning. I have no desire to rewatch Dexter though. Part of it was that what you saw in the beginning was what you got at the end with DEXTER. There was no evolution of character for me. And each season basically did the same thing. It did it well but sort of statically.

I would rewatch THE WIRE but not THE SOPRANOS. I would rewatch SIX FEET UNDER but not THE GOOD WIFE.

What series that you enjoyed would you watch again? Which one would you not?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday Night Music: Mavis Staples

Forgotten Movies: FOUL PLAY

Funny how forgotten this is movie is. All of the players have either fallen out of favor or fallen off the earth. But at the time, it was a fun movie. And wasn't Chevy handsome? I'd forgotten that.

Written and Directed by Colin Higgins, FOUL PLAY debuted in 1978. A librarian and a police detective fall in love as they work together to solve a case involving all sorts of wacky characters. It begins when Hawn is persauded to get out more after her divorce and she chooses the wrong party to attend.

This was a sort of tribute to both screwball comedies and Alfred Hitchcock's pairing of a couple to solve a mystery. Dudley Moore was cast at the last minute and his performance led to his casting in TEN.

Both leads had a nice string of successful movies in the seventies and eighties and then age caught up with them, I guess.

Megan's piece in Salon

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday Night Music: Video Killed the Radio Star

Kevin at 6 1/2


Nana-did you know ladies more than fifty years old can't birth babies?

Can you check my back? When it itches, I get scared I am turning into something else.

I don't believe in ghosts, witches or goblins. But I think there are leprechauns because I saw one's hat once.

Maybe there is a Santa Claus, but I don't think reindeer can fly.

If a genie gave me three wishes, I would wish I could breathe fire like a dragon, I would wish I could eat bad food all the time, and I would wish I was invisible.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Friday Night Music: Typhoon

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 9, 2013

FOR MORE LINKS, PLEASE SEE B.V. LAWSON right here. We are joined by a new reviewer this week, Kelly Robinson, so please say hi to her. 

If you would like to read some tributes to Jack Vance who died this year, you can find them here. 

Jack Vance, The Last Castle (1966) Winner 1967 Nebula and Hugo Awards for best short novel, Patti Abbott

I am a complete novice not only to Vance but to fantasy fiction in general. The Last  Castle has some general resemblances to Game of Thrones (my only anchor). There are castles, political intrigue, and in place of dragons, sentient birds. Roughly, the narrative centers around a civilization of Earth people who live in clusters of walled castles. They live opulent lives supported by high technology.

The capital is Castle Hagedon. Surrounding these structures are peasants imported from other planets, Nomads who prey on them and are intermittently defended by the castle folk, and “expiationists” (an extreme back-to-earth group apparently émigrés from the castles. The society is run by another imported group, the Meks, whose digestive systems have been replaced by sacs filled with syrup by the ruling class. The Meks repair and maintain the infrastructure until one day they rebel. Like all ruling classes, these people are shocked by the sudden and unexpected violence. Were not the Meks well treated? How could they have the capability to create an army? An interview with a captured Mek offers a subtle exploration of the attitudes of the oppressors and oppressed. The Castle Hagedon falls. The Meks take over the planet.

The Last Castle is an intriguing examination of the mentality of colonists and the oppressed, not unlike what has occurred in Algeria, South Africa, and other imperial outposts. 


Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad series as well as many westerns, anthologies, short stories and other crime fiction novels. You can find him here.

The Vengeful Virigin, Gil Brewer

F. Scott Fitzgerald once noted that Hemingway (then at his peak) wrote 
with the authority of success while Fitzgerald (then in the dumps) 
wrote with the authority of failure.

The authority of failure is what animates virtually all of Gil Brewer's 
work and certainly The Vengeful Virgin  is no exception. In outline 
it's nothing new--a very James M. Cainian scenario in which a TV 
repairman gets involved with an eighteen year old temptress who is 
taking care of a dying old man (and one we don't take to at all). He's 
promised to leave her a fortune when he dies. The trouble is he's dying 
very slowly. It won't surprise you that the temptress has thoughts of 
inviting the Reaper in a little ahead of schedule.

What makes this one of Gil Brewer's most successful novels is that a 
couple of the plot turns are truly shocking and that he is in complete 
control of his material. He paces this one well right up to the end. 
And the end is a powerhouse.

I mentioned the authority of failure. In Brewer's case it's usually 
because his protagonists let their dissatisfaction with their lot 
become a kind of self-pity that lets them justify whatever they need to 
do to improve their lot. They generally learn too late that maybe the 
old TV repair gig wasn't so bad at all.

Contrast this attitude with the reckless but doomed romantics of 
Charles Williams (whom I prefer). They're smarter than Brewer's men and 
there's rarely any self-pity. They seem to be on some kind of quest, 
which is a twist on the Cain-style tale. Yes they meet a bad girl. Yes 
they do something stupid. But what gets them through is enormous energy 
and a sense of mission and an undertow of anger. They're like Brewer's 
men, too, failures. But they are the tarnished knights that Phillip 
Marlowe and all his imitators only pretended to be.