Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday Night Music: The Chamber Brothers

Worst Movie Titles

So many to choose from but I can't help but dislike the new Vince Vaughn title THE DELIVERY MAN. Is this a title that attracts you? I get the double entendre in it but still…The original French-Candian title was STARBUCK, which is a bit better but not much. Don't they have clever people to title films more adeptly?

What's your choice for worst title ever?

Friday, November 29, 2013

How About an Airplane Chase?


Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, November 29, 2013

Patti Abbott, Mucho Mojo, Joe R. Lansdale (from 2011)

Mucho Mojo is the second installment of the Hap and Leonard series by Joe R. Lansdale and a worthy follow-up to the first one. It concerns the disappearance of a number of 8-10 year old boys over a period of 10 years in a small town in Texas. It was very well done, of course, although I did find it improbable that such a long string of disappearances would get so little attention from the authorities given certain similarities. But all in all, I enjoyed this book immensely.

What I wanted to talk about here are the considerable strengths I found in this novel--almost amazing ones.

This is a novel by a white writer set entirely in the black community of a small town--and it never seems patronizing or inauthentic. Hap is virtually the only white character.

Secondly, Lansdale is able to write, almost obsessively, about sex without it seeming prurient or pornographic. His sex is tender and graceful.

Third-he is able to create believable characters with a few strokes of his keyboard. Truly, he can find a feature or embellishment to give them something to make them stand out.

Fourth-he can insert humor gracefully at even the darkest moments.

Fifth- he can use profanity without seeming crass.

What a writer. I am in awe.

Sergio Angelini, IF I DIE BEFORE I WAKE, Sherwood King
Yvette Banek, MURDER, MAESTRO PLEASE, Delano Ames
Bill Crider, KYLAR, Gregory MacDonald
Jame DiBiasio, SIAM, Lily Tuck
Ed Gorman, A MEMORY OF MURDER, Ray Bradbury
Nick Jones, Parker Books, Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake)
George Kelley, BINARY, Michael Crichton
Margot Kinberg, THE CHALK CIRCLE MAN, Fred Vargas
Steve Lewis/Willian Deeck, GALLOWS WAIT, James Corbett
Todd Mason, WILD RIDERS, Lee Hoffman
Neer, IN MATTO'S REALM, Frederick Glauser
Juri Nummelin, KUBERT, David (Day) Keene
James Reasoner, GEW GANGSTER, Joe Kubert
Richard Robinson, ORCHESTRATED BY DEATH, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Michael Slind, DARKER THAN AMBER, John D. MacDonald
Kerrie Smith, THE BIG SLEEP, Raymond Chandler
Kevin Tipple/Patrick Ohl, THE RISING OF THE MOON, Gladys Mitchell
Prashant Trikannad, THE BIG FIX, Vikas Singh

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dad (Ralph Edward Nase)

My Dad would have been 99 today, but he died three years ago today on his birthday, after a bad fall.

Happy Birthday to the 16th of the 19 children born to the Nase family in Sellersville, PA. His father worked in a cigar factory. His oldest brother, Vincent, died in WW 1 and my Dad served in WW 2, that's how spread out there were. He never knew that brother, being only three when Vincent went overseas.

After much investigation, my brother tracked the family back to Alsace Lorraine and the name was spelled at least 6 different ways over the years. The earliest spelling is Nehs (I think). But they came to the US very early indeed.

Happy Birthday to the first man I loved. (His favorite song)

What was the last book everyone said you would love, but you didn't?


Everyone in my book group loved this book except me. It made me very uneasy to see the case being made that Germans suffered nearly as much as their enemies during the war. How can I pity a people mostly responsible for two world wars. Get over yourselves. 

It made me very uneasy to have sympathy extracted from me. And I also disliked the idea of death having a  voice and trying to gain sympathy for doing nefarious deeds. This was a squirmy book for me. 

What about you? What did you expect to like? 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday Night Music: Norah Jones and Billy Joe Armstrong

Tuesday's Forgotten TV: THE FIRST CHURCHILLS

In 1971, MASTERPIECE THEATER began it 43 year run with THE FIRST CHURCHILLS, a BBC costume drama based on Winston Churchills' family memoir. I remember being filled with excitement about this 12 part series, one of the first tastes of British TV I had had.  It was perhaps the only TV show that academics would admit watching.

If you look at the first few seasons of the show, most series were based on great works of literature: James, Balzac, Dickens, Zola, Collins, Wharton. It was not until UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS perhaps that they reached out to a broader audience and offered, what seemed at the time, a more raucous story.

As you can see, these were not lavish productions even by the standard of the day. But you could watch TV believing you were being educated as well as entertained if that made a difference to you.

After several seasons, I found that no matter what book the series did, who the author was, the results were fairly similar and static. They all had much the same look to them and much the same sort of characters. I am sure it is me who was lacking and not the series. The introduction of MASTERPIECE MYSTERY added a new ingredient, but the results are often too similar in tone for me. A writer's style is lost as the same production teams, directors, set designers, etc, take hold of them and give them the BBC feel.

I am sorry to offend and clearly most US series are inferior to what we find here. But I can't help but think it could be better.

Here is a list of all the series, they did. 

Monday, November 25, 2013


Who Writes Beautiful Prose?

"The siren on the top of the Dalton, North Dakota, fire station howls, as it does five days a week at this hour. Its wail frightens into flight the starlings that roost on the station roof every day yet never learn how fixed and foreseeable are human lives. The siren tells the town's working citizens and students what they already know. It's twelve o'clock, time for you to fly too. Put down your hammer, your pencil; close your books, cover your typewriter. Go home. Your wives and mothers are opening cans of soup and slicing bread and last night's roast beef for sandwiches. Come back in an hour, ready to put your shoulder to it, to add the figures, parse the sentences, calm the patients, please the customer."

Larry Watson LET HIM GO

Whose prose do you admire?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Night Poetry: T.S. Elliott

What Are You Most Thankful for?

I am most thankful for a happy childhood.

Grandmother and Grandfather Grieb, circa 1954. The lived in Lynnwood Gardens in Elkins Park, PA.
Dad, Jeff, Me in Ocean City, NJ.
Me and Jeff on Easter
Grandparents, probably AC
7613 Gilbert St. Philadelphia
My wonderful mother in a kitchen with no counterspace
Mother, me, Grandfather, Grandmother, Jeff

Mom and Dad

Probably at Fishers Pool.

Mom, Jeff, Dad

It used to snow in Philly. 1955 Chevy Belair in pink and gray
Birthhday-when all you did was eat cake and play pin the tail on the donkey
I never had a new bike but I loved this one.
Superman? Geez those fifties nylon costumes were lousy.
Ocean City, N.J.
Probably Atlantic City where we went on Easter. AC kept things open off-season.

What are you most thankful for

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday Night Music: Joni Mitchell

What Do You Think?

I recently finished a story that is mostly about a female thief. She is a lesbian. There is nothing graphic though although she has a relationship.

I have sent it two places and both editors admired the story but pointed me to publishers of gay stories. Or erotica. Can't a story have a gay character and yet be published in a mainstream outlet? I can easily imagine a publisher of gay-themed stories saying this is mostly about crime. Which it is.

What do you think, writers? Where would you send it?

Friday, November 22, 2013

What About a Grocer's Delivery Bike CHase?

Hat tip to Kieran.

Here is my review of SUNLIGHT, JR for those who don't go to movies for entertainment. 

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, November 22, 2013

Chris Knopf, Dead Anyway (2012), Jeff Meyerson

People always ask (I know, I ask too) how you decide what to read next.  Might as well ask, how do you decide what to read, period?  I have a list of favorite authors whose books I read when they come out but for newer writers or ones I don't know I tend to lean on recommendations from friends, reviews here or on other blogs, plus newspaper and magazine reviews.  If they sound interesting to me, I'll check them out.
Chris Knopf had two earlier series set in the Hamptons but this is the first in a new series.  Apparently Bill Crider reviewed it when it came out last year but somehow his review did not make enough of an impression on my brain until I read his review of the sequel a few weeks ago, linking back to his Dead Anyway review.  Then I thought, this sounds good. And it is.
How's this for starting with a bang?  Arthur Cathcart, an overweight 40ish guy working at home doing market research and other high end computer research, married to a gorgeous woman who owns a real estate firm near their home in Connecticut, comes home from a walk to find his wife sitting on the couch and a man holding a gun on her.  The man insists she answers five questions written on a paper, and to emphasize his seriousness, he shoots her husband in the thigh.  She answers the questions only to have the man, clearly a hired killer, shoot her in the head and kill her.  Then he shoots Cathcart, who somehow doesn't die.
Now you may be able to resist seeing what happens next, but I sure couldn't.  Cathcart is gravely injured and decides (with the help of his physician sister) to stay dead and use his computer skills to discover who killed his wife and why, not easy in the post-9/11 world.  But first he has to recover enough physically and mentally to be able to act.  Along the way he gets some help from a woman named Natsumi Fitzgerald, who throws her lot in with his.
I really enjoyed this one and will be reading the sequel as soon as it comes in to the library.  Definitely recommended.

THE FIFTH CHILD, Doris Lessing, Patti Abbott
Doris Lessing was one of the writer's whose works have meant a lot to me. Staring with THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK (for me), she captured the experiences of women of our time. She wrote difficult feminist novels, science fiction novels, and horror with THE FIFTH CHILD.
THE FIFTH CHILD has pretty much haunted and influenced me since I read it. The idea here is a family with four lovely children decide to have a fifth. And the fifth pretty much  destroys all the equanimity they have enjoyed--all the smug self-satisfaction. 
 Ben looks rather horrid, eats insatiably, and acts even worse: he is abnormally strong and violent.  Neither his mother or father are able to bond with him. They are afraid of him and afraid of the feelings he has aroused in them because they regarded themselves as natural parents. His four sibling are also afraid. Age only exacerbates his tendencies. 
This is a terrific idea to me. To take a family that prides itself on being supportive and loving and throw something into the mix that will make them doubt what they believed themselves to be. This is not a novel for everyone. But it is one that makes you think. 

Can a child be evil from birth? Can a genetic mishap cause such a thing?

Sergio Angellini, A MAGNUM FOR SCHNEIDER, James Mitchell
Brian Busby, A STRANGER AND AFRAID, Marika Robert
Bill Crider, SKYLAR, Gregory Macdonald
Scott Cupp, DARK TANGOES, Lewis Shiner
Martin Edwards, THE GREEN-EYED MONSTER, Hugh Wheeler
Curt Evans, BANNER DEADLINES, Joseph Commings
Jerry House, GREAT DETECTIVE STORIES ABOUT DOCTORS, Ed. by Gross Conklin and Noah D. Fabricant
Randy Johnson, VENGEANCE VALLEY, Luke Short
Nick Jones, COUNT NOT THE COST, Ian Mackintosh
George Kelley, THE DOOMSTERS, Ross Macdonald
Margot Kinberg, LINE OF SIGHT, David Whish-Wilson
B.V. Lawson, A GENTLEMAN CALLED, Dorothy Salisbury Davis
Steve Lewis/Allen J. Hubbins, WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING, John Riggs
Todd Mason, HORRORSTORY, Volume Three, edited by Gerald W. Page and Karl Edward Wagner.
Neer, HEADS YOU LOSE, Christiana Brand
THE Novelettes Blog, BURY ME DEEP, Megan Abbott
Juri Nummelin, MURDER'S SO UNPLEASANT, Frank Struan
James Reasoner, THE THIRD SEDUCTION, Jack Lynn
RIchard Robinson, THE UNCOMPLAINING CORPSES, Brett Halliday
Gerard Saylor, A PAINTED BIRD, Jerzy Kosinski
Ron Scheer, TEXAS GOLD, John Reese 
Michael Slind, THE LAST KASHMIRI ROSE, Barbara Cleverly
Kerrie Smith, PIETR THE LATVIAN, Georges Simenon
Kevin Tipple, ON DANGEROUS GROUND: STORIES OF WESTERN NOIR edited by Ed Gorman, Dave Zeltserman and Martin Greenberg
TomCat. DEATH POINTS A FINGER, Will Levinrew
Prashant Trikannad, A GENTLEMAN FROM MISSISSIPPI, Thomas Wise
James Winter, DESPERATION, Stephen King 

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Movies I am Glad I Saw Once But Would Never See Again

I am glad I saw Hilary Swank's BOYS DON'T CRY back in 1999 but I would never see it again. It was an artful movie with good performances by Swank and Sevigny but seeing it again would put me over the edge. I could also never see PRIEST again for similar reasons. Torturing people for their color, sex, or sexual orientation is important to know about but seeing it on a big screen is another thing.

What would you never see again?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday Theme Music: THE TONIGHT SHOW

A Mystery to Solve

This was a Christmas card my grandfather made. He was an architect but fairly proficient in pen and ink and wood cuts too. Now I know my grandparents never left the U.S. and I am mystified at where this is. The only "place" I can find called St. Raphael is in France. For all I know it was a motel they stayed in on a trip they took across the country. My guess was it was done in the fifties. His other cards have my mother's name on it too. Anyone recognize the place or have a guess at it? 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday Night Music: Anita O'Day, Gene Krupa

Tueday's Forgotten Movie: TELL ME THAT YOU LOVE ME, JUNIE MOON

Otto Preminger directed this tale of three misfits who forge a life together. Liza Minelli plays Junie, who has been disfigured in an acid attack by a former boyfriend. Ken Howard has seizures and Robert Moore is a gay paraplegic. This is not quite the film that the STERILE CUCKOO was earlier, but it was very emblematic of films of that time. Preminger gives it a comic touch, which makes it bearable. It is based on a novel by Marjorie Kellogg. With these films and CABARET and NEW YORK, NEW YORK, a film career seemed like a sure thing for Minelli. But things don't always work out.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Opening Credits: Rosemary's Baby

How I Came to Write This Book: Dana King's GRIND JOINT

I was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. Haven’t lived there since 1980, though I go back several times a year to visit my parents in the house I grew up in. I understand better with time how the area shaped me, not least when I return and see the economy hasn’t changed appreciably since it persuaded me to leave.

Pittsburgh recovered by remaking itself into a center of education, medicine, and finance. The southern and northern suburbs came back, some even better than before. I don’t remember there being a Cranberry Township when I lived in the area; now it’s a suburb of choice.

Northwestern Westmoreland and northeastern Allegheny Counties missed most of this. There are isolated spots of progress in a landscape of small, local business trading money back and forth, helping each other to go under slower. This is the area I turned into Penns River.

On a visit home a few years ago, I looked at what had been a small strip mall—Montgomery Wards and J.C. Penney, connected by a handful of small local businesses—essentially abandoned for over five years, and thought, “Oh, yeah. This is exactly where a sleazeball developer would put a casino and tell the town their problems were solved.”

That idea might make a good book for someone else to write, but I needed a crime. (It’s how I roll.) I added peripheral Russian mob involvement that gets out of hand and conflicts with the local Pittsburgh Mafia—the boss of which lives in Penns River—and pretty soon there’s more than the town can handle.

I felt a little guilty about using the building site and bringing in the Russian mob until research showed the actual building is in far worse condition than I depicted. (In Grind Joint the building is renovated; in fact, the city says the land would be more valuable without the building. The real-life mayor has described the buildings as having “deteriorated to the point where we are worried about safety.”) I was also concerned about how believable it might be to have a silent partner in the casino who was a former Russian mobster until I came across several articles that showed the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s vetting process wasn’t all it had been cracked up to be; several examples of organized crime influence in casinos have been found.

Western Pennsylvania is a heavily ethnic area, dominated by residents of German, Irish, Italian, and Eastern European descent. I used characters with the kinds of names found in the area as a good way to remind the reader of the setting without continually describing things. The names Ben “Doc” Dougherty, Stanley “Stush” Napierkowski, Willie Grabek are no more common than names such as Schoepf, Zywiciel, Wierzbicki, and Neuschwander. A pronunciation key is provided at the front of the book. (Honest to God. You can thank Charlie Stella, who asked after reading a draft, “Ain’t no one named Smith in this town?” I changed a character’s name just for him.)

I worry people will recognize the location and think I’m throwing stones. Far from it; this has been a labor of love. Every year I become more aware of how the area shaped me, and how many of what people consider to be my better qualities came from there. I read the local paper online and avidly follow the Pirates, Penguins, and Steelers. As I wrote in my dedication to Worst Enemies, the predecessor to Grind Joint: “To the Tri-Cities, the Hotel California of the Rust Belt.” I may have checked out, but I’ll never leave.

GRIND JOINT is now available at Amazon and other book sellers. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Night Poetry: Sarajini Naidu

Engaging Twosomes

THE NYT looked at some of the TV shows where two people clicked in a big way, thus making the show a stronger one. Most of their examples were recent, but looking back, what twosomes (not necessarily romantic) really make a show zing. Here are three for me.

Andy Taylor and Barney Fife on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. Don Knotts and Andy Griffin had chemistry. You believed in their friendship from their first scenes together. Barney was a screw-up but there was nothing he wouldn't do for the Taylor family. And Andy covered up a million of Barney's goofs over the years. They played like a well-oiled machine.

Tami and Eric Taylor, played by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton on FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS anchored a constantly changing cast of teenagers. Romances might come and go, teams might graduate and move on, but they were the rock solid totally believable heart of the show. Who didn't want parents like them?

Lorelai and Rory Gilmour (Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel) on THE GILMOUR GIRLS were perhaps the first mother-daughter team to even have their own patter. Although they had moments of disagreement, you never doubted they loved each other and it was this bond that carried the show through some fairly doubtful scenarios. This must be a special gift of Graham because she has a similar relationship with Mae Whitman on PARENTHOOD.

What are some of your favorite TV relationships?

Really liked ALL IS LOST.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

How About a Stagecoach Chase?

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, November 15, 2014

Ed Gorman, THE GARNER FILES, James Garner with Jon Winikur

I wish I hadn't read this book.
   I first saw James Garner the night "Maverick" appeared on a Sunday night way back in 1956. I've been a fan of his acting ever since.
   To repeat I wish I hadn't read this book; even more I wish he hadn't WRITTEN it.
   I don't know who Jon Winokur is but he has served Garner poorly. I'm not naive enough to believe that the Garner of movie and TV fame is the Garner of reality. But Winokur (or Garner who did after all have the last word) should have given us an impression beyond that of an inexplicably angry man who carries so many grudges it's amazing he can stand upright.
   The most irritating issue in the entire (and frequently irritating book) is Garner's treatment of Roy Huggins.  Now I have mixed feelings about Huggins as a man. He named names to House UnAmerican Activities so he could keep his own enviable career going. I've written before that I don't know what I would've done in the same circumstances. Fifty-fifty I would've named names.
   That said Roy Huggins is one of the giants of television. He created among other shows "Maverick," "The Fugitive" and "The Rockford Files." Note that "Maverick"created Garner's stardom and "Rockford" helped sustain it.  He quotes  Huggins' line: "I love Jim Garner and he hates me." Garner agrees and then bitterly brushes Huggins off.
   Garner is nice to film and tv crews, supports liberal causes, loves his wife and daughter, appreciates what some writers, directors and actors have done for him. I believe all this. I don't think he's this terrible guy.
   But all the people he's punched or wishes he'd punched (we get it he's a macho man), all the people he thinks have ripped him off or let him down, all the people he mocks or know some of this would add texture and spice to the average Hollywood autobiography. But here the tone of these incidents and opinions quickly begin to make you wonder why, after all his success, he's still so troubled by a life he's clearly earned and deserves...but a life that leaves him singularly unsatisfied.
   The other negative is that Winokur speeds through numerous moments that could easily have been expanded and developed. If they had been there wouldn't have been so much room left for all the bitching and misery.

Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad series of political crime novels. You can find him here. 

DIRTY WORK is the debut novel from Mississippi writer, Larry Brown, and it seemed appropriate to read it around Veteran's Day since that's its subject matter. I picked it up in Mississippi last month and just wish I had picked up more of them. I have RABBIT FACTORY around somewhere and will dig it out now.

Walter James and Braiden Chaney are two Vietnam Vets lying side by side in a Vet hospital 20 years after the war. Chaney has basically spent the entire time in a hospital since the war left him with no arms or legs. James is newly admitted with some sort of brain trauma from a bullet lodge in his head. He has also been badly scarred from his years in Vietnam. 
The two men eventually trade war stories, but this book does much more than that. It painted the lives of the sort of men who couldn't dodge the war--the down and dirty life they led in northern Mississippi. Much of Chaney's thoughts are dream-induced and almost biblical in theme. Who could spend 20 years in a bed and not retreat to such a place?

The two men do a lot of drinking with the beer Chaney's sister smuggles in.  They also smoke a lot of pot. Their stories are different and the same. It was men like these two who served in Vietnam and never recovered from it. They either died in body or died in spirit. An amazing and thought-provoking book.

Sergio Angelini, THE WINTER MURDER CASE, SS Van Dine
Yvette Banek, FOR OLD TIME'S SAKE, Delano Ames
Brian Busby, THE CROOKED GOLFERS, Frank L. Packard
Bill Crider, HIS BROTHER'S WIFE, Clay Stuart (Harry Whittington)
Scott Cupp, BLOOD OF THE LAMB, Sam Cabot
J. Escribano, BLACK ICE, Michael Connelly
Curt Evans, NO LOVE LOST, Margery Allingham
Ray Garraty, A HOUSE IN NAPLES, Peter Rabe
Jerry House, BATTLE ON MERCURY, Lester Del Rey
Nick Jones, THE SANDBAGGERS, Ian Macintosh
Geroge Kelley, BLACK MONEY, Ross Macdonald
Margot Kinberg, ONCE UPON A LIE, Jill Patterson
B.V. Lawson, MRS. KNOX'S PROFESSION, Jessica Mann
Evan Lewis, DONT'T CRY FOR ME, William Campbell Gault
Steve Lewis, MY LOVELY EXECUTIONER, Peter Rabe
Todd Mason,FACES OF FEAR: Interviews by Douglas Winter; DARK DREAMERS: Interviews by Stanley Wiater; CUT! HORROR WRITERS ON HORROR FILM, edited by Christopher Golden
J.F. Norris, DESERT TOWN, Ramona Stewart
Juri Nummelin, THE POWER OF THE DOG, Don Winslow
James Reasoner, SADDLES, SIXGUNS, SHOOTOUTS, Charles Beckman, Jr (Charles Boekman)
Kelly Robinson, WILLIAM TELL TOLD AGAIN, P.G. Wodehouse
Richard Robinson, BENCHMARKS, GALAXY BOOKSHELF, Algis Budrys
Ron Scheer, ADIOS, HEMINGWAY, Leonardo Padura Fuentes
Michael Slind, THE ORIGIN OF EVIL, Ellery Queen
Kerrie Smith, THE CAVALIER CASE, Antonia Fraser
Prashant Trikkannad, PERJURY, Stan Latreille
Kevin Tipple, WHEN THE SACRED GINMILL CLOSES, Lawrence Block
James Winter, HENRY VI, PART 3, William Shakespeare
Zybahn, ROOM, Emma Donaghue