Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

Character Names

Do you know how many continuing characters there are on shows like ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK? There must be upwards of 50 on that a one. And it is only recently that I realize that I cannot put a name on most of them. Partly it's because the series hops around so much, but I am sure I was raised on TV shows that only demanded a knowledge of 7-12 character names.

And those characters appeared week after week.

Now most shows have huge casts and storylines disappear and reappear episodes later. Am I the only one having trouble IDing Black Cindy and Big Boo on OITHB. Does anyone know the name of the character Daniel Stern plays on MANHATTAN. What is Bill Master's mother's name on MASTERS OF SEX? Who does Janet McTeer play on AN HONORABLE WOMAN?

I swear I knew every character name until about 2000-along about when THE WIRE came along. Is it me or is it a different way of telling a story?

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Songs That Remind Me Of Summer

There was a time, oh young ones, when she was the gold standard for moving into adulthood. Or so I thought in 1965.

Favorite Summer Movies: DO THE RIGHT THING.

Spike Lee probably will never top this early movie about an explosive situation one summer. Most summer movies are light-hearted or nostalgic. This is instead painful and real. It is the hottest day of the summer in Bed-Sty and things are about to explode. With a cast featuring Lee, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Ruby Dee, Ozzie Davis and others, you feel the tension. You watch horrified as the situation continues to escalate.
It's the tension we see today in Missouri. It never gets better, does it? This film came out of nowhere and gave you a momentary feeling you had a grip on how things get out of hand. One of the great films (IMHO).

Monday, August 25, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

Favorite Summer Movies: A WALK ON THE MOON

It is 1969 and the walk on the moon is imminent. The movie takes place at a camp for Jewish families in the mountains. Diane Lane is a lonely wife and mother who falls hard for a salesman (Mortensen). The is a different movie than ones we usually see, capturing what family camps were like in that era. Not much glamor here. This is the one that brought Lane back in 1989. She captures the desires and frustrations of a woman caught in a fairly dull marriage with not enough to do.

Out Sick

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Hi Patti, thanks for inviting me to talk about my recently released cozy mystery, Well Read, Then Dead, the first novel in the Read ’Em and Eat series published by Berkley Prime Crime. I’ve always loved writing short mystery fiction and I’m fortunate that my short stories have appeared here and there in anthologies and magazines. Over the years I’ve written noir, crime, traditional mystery, and paranormal mystery short stories. I’ve even managed a cozy story or two.    

I must confess that when it comes to novels, I read cozies more than any other type and I have always wanted to write and publish a cozy mystery series.

I was actually inspired to write Well Read, Then Dead by Christine Begley, who works for Pennypress/Dell Magazines. She and I met several years ago at the annual Alfred Hitchcock/Ellery Queen pre-Edgar bash. Chris told me about a book she’d recently read called Shadow Country written by the late Peter Matthiessen. He introduces his readers to the untamed and isolated Ten Thousand Islands on the edge of the Everglades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries He bases his fiction solidly in fact. I read the entire book (about 900 pages) in a few days and then re-read the parts I loved most. Matthiessen made the south Florida Gulf coast so fascinating that I knew I had to write about it. 

At first I intended to write a short story set in that time and place, but ultimately I decided that a modern story with references to the past would make a perfect cozy mystery. So I asked my daughter, who lives in southwest Florida, to suggest a barrier island that would make a nice home for the cafĂ© and bookstore known as the Read ’Em and Eat. She suggested Fort Myers Beach and I have to say it is the perfect cozy community with an enduring cadre of full time residents and enough vacationers to add variety.

As a cozy reader, when I finish reading a book, I always want to spend more of my time “living” with the characters. I hate for our visit to end. Writing this series allows me to spend an expanded amount of time hanging out in the Read ’Em and Eat and roaming Fort Myers Beach with Sassy, Bridgy and the gang. Of course it’s all completely in my head, but isn’t that where we readers have the most fun?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

OK. I am fourteen and we have a membership at Mermaid Lake for the summer. It is there I meet Bobby. He takes me to his house, which is as distant from mine as possible in terms of wealth. He has air-conditioning. (We have a fan--and only one in my parents' bedroom). He has a pool. He has a pool table. He has shag carpeting. He has a convertible. Yes!


Friday's Forgotten Books August 22, 2014

You can find the links at B.V. Lawson's blog. Have a good one.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

Rewatching the Pilot for THE WIRE

From the very first scene, this series simply leaps to the top of any list one might make of terrific TV shows. A lot of very good series today think that they have to obfuscate what's going on to be edgy.  They dump characters into the scene, not bothering to ID them in any way. They expect you to be patient and somehow remember the few minutes of screen time a character was given episodes ago.

But in THE WIRE, the pilot managed to introduce dozens of characters, immediately showing you who they were and how they fit into plot. Themes were established from the outset; several characters were already given a bit of a back story. But all of this was done in an artful, realistic, edgy way.

Go watch the opening scene on you tube. Wow!

Has there ever been a better series than THE WIRE?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

Celebrity Deaths

A real string of them lately. And there have been so many tragic ones over the years. The ones of natural causes are hard enough to take, but there are many, like Natalie Wood, for instance that have a horror beyond ever those that come by their own hand.

The death I found the hardest to take was John Lennon's. Who kills a song-writer? Who takes the life of a man who only sought to entertain. I will never forget that day. Never. To kill for the notoriety in killing is unfathomable to me.

Whose death hit you the hardest?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

Favorite Summer Movies: SUMMERTIME

Katherine Hepburn was only 47 when she made this movie (about the same age as Jennifer Aniston) but she seems like the spinster the movie is about. (to me Hepburn seemed the same age for about thirty years). Would anyone call Aniston a spinster?

A teacher, on summer vacation in Venice alone, meets an antiques dealer (Rossano Brazzi) and perhaps they will fall in love. Directed by David Lean in 1955 this is a poignant and lovely made film. The scenes of Venice alone are worth the trip.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer


Kevin has a very special relationship with Phil. From the beginning, it was Phil that interested him most.

I remember having the same sort of relationship with my grandfather, thinking him wiser than the rest of the family. One fact about each of my grandparents (only maternal because my Dad's parents died before I was born)

My grandfather took my brother to get allergy shots on Saturday mornings. And he and I would wait in the car while Jeff got his shots. I would ask him all sorts of questions about everything and he always answered me seriously. Those morning, which must have been hell for Jeff, were gold for me.

My grandmother was not too drawn to children. But she did like to sew and she made me the most fabulous clothes for my Ginny dolls. She did it all of it by hand and every skirt or dress and even hats and coats were perfect and wonderful. I was the envy of all my girlfriends.

What do you remember about your grandparents?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 15, 2014

B,V, Lawson will take the reins next week and Evan Lewis the week after. Also I will be gone from 8:30 until 2 today so latecomers will be seated after 2. 

From the archives:

Deb was a technical writer in the financial and software industries for the better part of two decades. Then, after being a stay-at-home mom for several years, she went to work in the public school system and currently works with autistic students in a special ed classroom. She loves to read across all genres, but mysteries are her favorite.

Leonard Cohen was born in Montreal in 1934, which makes him the same age as my mother. I don’t quite know how that happened, because he always seemed so much younger than my parents when I was a teenager obsessively listening to “The Songs of Leonard Cohen” LP. Today Cohen is best known for his vast catalog of music, including “Suzanne,” “Joan of Arc,” “First We Take Manhattan,” and the beautiful “Hallelujah,” which seems to have been covered by every singer with a recording contract. However, in the 1960s (after graduating from McGill University in 1955 and trying law school and some other career paths), Cohen published several volumes of poetry and two novels: THE FAVOURITE GAME (1963) and BEAUTIFUL LOSERS (1966). I discovered these books in the 1970s; I enjoyed THE FAVOURITE GAME, but it was BEAUTIFUL LOSERS I read repeatedly during my teen years.
BEAUTIFUL LOSERS begins with an unnamed (and undoubtedly unreliable) narrator who is living in utter squalor, unwashed and filthy. Despite his living conditions, the narrator is a scholar, a historian whose major field of study is a luckless Indian tribe whose name has historically been translated as “loser.” The narrator tells the story of a love triangle involving himself, his late wife Edith (one of the last members of the aforementioned tribe), and F, the domineering man loved by both the narrator and Edith. When the novel begins, F, like Edith, is already dead—although a “Long Letter from F” forms the middle portion of the book. Intertwined with the hallucinatory story of spiritual and sexual love, betrayal, drug abuse, mind games, religion, philosophy, politics (especially the Quebec independence movement), mental illness, and suicide, is the story of Catherine Tekakwitha, a 17th century Mohawk who converted to Catholicism, lived a post-conversion life of intense self-denial (one would be tempted to say masochism), died at a young age, and became a saint.
This brief summary does not do justice to the profound depth of the novel, the various voices within it (comic, tragic, learned, foolish, yearning, interrogatory), the richness of its language, the rapid shifts in perspective. Yes, it is a sixties time-capsule: veering wildly in tone, leaving so much ambiguously half-said, containing simultaneously so much intellectual heft and so many intensely-detailed descriptions of sex and torture; it seems to epitomize a certain sixties outlook and attitude. This is not a novel for the weak of heart, but if you know Leonard Cohen only from his music and you’re in the mood for a real change of pace, I highly recommend BEAUTIFUL LOSERS.
Incidentally, this is the novel which contains the passage that begins, “God is alive; magic is afoot,”
famously used in a chant/song by Buffy Ste. Marie.

Sergio Angelini, PRISONER'S BASE, Rex Stout
Joe Barone, FUN HOUSE, Chris Grabenstein
Brian Busby, STARMAGEDDON, Richard Rohmer
Bill Crider, THE TIME TRAP, Henry Kuttner
Martin Edwards, CORPSE IN COLD STORAGE, Milward Kennedy
Rick Horton, THE QUEEN PEDAUQUE, Anatole France
Jerry House, THE WEREWOLF IN LEGEND, Basil Copper
Randy Johnson, THE OWL, Bob Forward
George Kelley , 100 GREAT DETECTIVES, Maxim Jakubowski
Margot Kinberg, SALVATION OF A SAINT, Keigo Higashino
Rob Kitchin, LADY OF THE LAKE, Raymond Chandler; LITTLE CAESAR, W.R. Burnett
B.V. Lawson, A GENTLEMAN CALLED, Dorothy Salisbury Davis
Evan Lewis, SHARPE'S WATERLOO, Bernard Cornwell
Steve Lewis/Allen J. Hubbin, THE BURNED WOMAN, Edward Mathis
Todd Mason, NOT AT NIGHT, edited by Herbert Asbury
J.F. Norris, OBIT DELAYED, Helen Nielsen
James Reasoner, THE MONEY GUN, Robert J. Randisi
Kelly Robinson, PULP FICTION, Robert Turner
Gerard Saylor, THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH, Ariel S. Winters
Ron Scheer, THE PHANTOM HERD. B.M. Bower
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergant, DRUM-BEAT MADRID, Stephen Marlowe 
TracyK, LOOT, Aaron Elkins
Prashant Trikannad, A WOMAN ON THE ROOF, Doris Lessing

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

Desert Island Author

You can take all the work of one author with you to an island. Who would that author be? Questions to consider: it should be a writer who has written a lot and perhaps one who writers eclectically-in other words doesn't write the same novel over and over. And one who gives you something to chew on.

Phil immediately chose Shakespeare but he's not my muse.

With that in mind, I am going to choose Daphne DuMaurier. I haven't read all that many of her books and stories but have very much liked the ones I have.

Here is her output:



  • Gerald: A Portrait (1934)
  • The du Mauriers (1937)
  • The Young George du Maurier: a selection of his letters 1860–67 (1951)
  • The Infernal World of Branwell BrontĂ« (1960)
  • Vanishing Cornwall (includes photographs by her son Christian, 1967)
  • Golden Lads: Sir Francis Bacon, Anthony Bacon and their Friends (1975)
  • The Winding Stair: Francis Bacon, His Rise and Fall (1976)
  • Growing Pains – the Shaping of a Writer (a.k.a. Myself When Young – the Shaping of a Writer, 1977)
  • Enchanted Cornwall (1989)

Okay, who is your pick?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer


From 1960, this is one of those films that I saw at an age when I have little insight into what was going on. I've never seen it again. But as with other books and movies from the time that I was 12 or so it formed my ideas of grownup life.

Set in the 1920s Robert Preston plays a guy who's lost his job, has a dissatisfied wife, and two discontent children. Dorothy McQuiire plays the wife and Shirley Knight, his daughter.  

It began as a play by William Inge, directed by Elia Kazan. The movie was directed by Delbert Mann. It's on you tube in its entirety. This is the sort of movie that was done well in that era. We seem to have lost the knack in the US at least for telling these stories. I guess they were melodramatic but at least they seemed interested in the lives of ordinary people. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

For Richard Wheeler, a man of great taste and great talent.

What are some of the best movie soundtracks?

I am starting it out with the soundtrack to the THE GRADUATE. To me, Simon perfectly captured the spirit of the movie. But I was of the age to think that. What else?

Friday, August 08, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

Friday's Forgotten Books: FRIDAY, August 8, 2014

Forgotten Books: A Hidden Place by Robert Charles Wilson

In the course of a year I usually read twenty or twenty five novels that impress me. Some for characterization, some for story, some for milieu. But I rarely read a novel that astonishes me.

When Robert Charles Wilson's first novel A Hidden Place appeared as a Bantam paperback original in 1986, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I received it along with three or four other science fiction Bantams. I think I put it on the bottom of the stack. The other novels were by writers I knew. Whatever reluctance I felt vanished when I read the first page.

The story here concerns a young man named Travis Fisher who is sent to live with his aunt because his mother, a troubled woman, has died. What he finds in his aunt's house is an intolerable uncle who demands that Travis lives by steely rules he himself frequently breaks. He also finds Anna, the strange beautiful woman who boards upstairs. Travis is so stunned by her he can barely form sentences. He also takes up Nancy Wilcox, a smart, witty girl who is bursting to escape the brutal social order of this small town.

Parallel to this story line is the one of the odd hobo Bone. Because the novel is set in the worst years of the Depression, Bone becomes our tour guide, showing us exactly how people of various kinds behaved during this time. Bone is a transfixing figure, as mysterious as Anna and perhaps linked to her in some way.

I don't want to start listing plot twists here. All I'll say is that each is cleverly set up and magnificently sprung on the reader. What I'd rather talk about is the writing. In the course of reading A Hidden Place, I heard many voices--among them Sherwood Anderson, William Faulkner and the Theodore Dreiser who wrote An American Tragedy. The irony is that Wilson is a Canadian. He may or may not have read any of these writers. But except for John Steinbeck, I've never read place description to equal the power and poetry of Wilson's shantytowns or railroad goons; nor have I encountered a better picture of the small towns of that era.

But most of all the book is about people. Wilson's characters will take up permanent residence in your memory. So many of them ache for things they can't have, for things they don't even understand. Wilson writes with a razor.

Twenty years later we find that Robert Charles Wilson is a highly regarded science fiction writer, winner of many awards and several lengthy studies. I believe I've read every novel he's published. But much as I love them I always go back to this one. In its sorrows and its griefs and the beauties of its writing, we find a rare kind of truth, a statement about what it means to be human.

Ed Gorman is the author of the Sam McCain and Dev Conrad series as well as dozens of other books. You can find him here. 

The six stories, each about thirty minutes, in this audiobook entertained us on a drive last week. DISC 1 has stories by Dashiell Hammett and C.S. Montanye, both disappointing. The second disc had stories by Ed McBain and Louise Erdrich, both good. But the third was the winner with a fantastic story by Shirley Jackson and another by Nadine Gordimer (Country Lovers)

The Jackson story, THE SUMMER PEOPLE told the story of a couple who decide to remain at their summer cottage a month longer and the fate that befalls this decision. Jackson uses the trivial and banal to great effect until she zeroes in in the horrific. Just makes the hair on your neck stand up.

All of the stories were apparently read to a live audience and recorded as part of a series. The readers were all good but there was a distance between you and them that the average audibook doesn't have.

Best line though. "Why don't we kill somebody?" she suggested. She was a blond, of course, tall and willowy. From McBain's "IMPROVISATION".

Sergio Angelini. MY FRIEND, MAIGRET, Georges Simenon
Yvette Banek, MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD, Charlaine Harris
Joe Baron, ROLLING THUNDER, Chris Grabenstein
Brian Busby, HE LEARNED ABOUT WOMEN, Ted Greenspan
Bill Crider: SHOOT THE PRESIDENT, ARE YOU MAD? Frank McAuliffe
Martin Edwards, HE COULD NOT HAVE SLIPPED, Francis Beeding
Rich Horton, SCARAMOUCHE, Rafael Sabatini
Jerry House, THE DEVIL IN SCOTLAND, Douglas Percy Bliss
Randy Johnson ENTER THE SAINT, Leslie Charteris
Nick Jones, UNSUNG ROAD, Simon Harvester
George Kelley, MARTIAN QUEST, Leigh Brackett
Margot Kinberg, THE ANATOMY OF DEATH, Felicity Young
Rob Kitchin THE SPELLMAN FILES, Lisa Lutz
B.V. Lawson, THE CAPE COD MYSTERY, Phoebe Atwood Taykor
Evan Lewis, THE MEDICINE MAN, W.C. Tuttle
Steve Lewis/ Willam F. Deeck, THE GHOST IT WAS, Richard Hull
Robert Arthur
J.F.Norris, COME AND BE KILLED, Shelly Smith
Richard Robinson, THE DOOMSTERS, Ross Macdonald
Gerard Saylor, THE MOONSTONE, Wilkie Collins
Ron Scheer, HIGH WATER, Richard Bissell
Kevin Tipple/PAtrick Ohl, THE MERRY HIPPO, Elsbeth Huxley
TomCat, TENANT FOR DEATH, Cyril Hare
Prashant Trikannad, THE WHITE FRUIT OF BANALDAR, John D. MacDonald
Zybahn, SPACE MOVIES, Peter Haining

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

Fictional Parents

When I think back on parents, as portrayed in sitcoms or dramas or movies or books from 25 plus years ago, the couple did not seem dissatisfied with their life--or at least their lot in being a parent. Now things seem very different on TV and Movie land. It seems like people over thirty always regret being an adult. They would like to spend their evenings having sex with strangers, taking drugs, drinking themselves into oblivion. I wonder if this is just Hollywood's take on things or if most people see having a real job, a real marriage, and children as the beginning of the end. That there is no satisfaction to be had in any of it.

When I think of the Huxtables, the Keatons, the Cleavers, they seemed fairly satisfied. If I had to date a change in the air, I might look to THIRTY SOMETHING in the late eighties when all of the central characters seem to struggle so mightily with adulthood.

What do you think? When did growing up lose its allure? When did forty somethings start to envy twenty-one year olds so much? 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer


In the fifties, I came home for lunch, eaten on the living room coffee table with my mother, and watched her three soaps: LOVE OF LIFE, SEARCH FOR TOMORROW and THE GUIDING LIGHT. SEARCH was my favorite--only 15 minutes then, perhaps because it was the only one I saw in its entirety. And I also identified with the show's daughter, Patti enough to change the spelling of my name. (Actually in those days I was mostly called Patsy).

SEARCH was on CBS from the fifties until the eighties and centered around Joanne Tate, a widow at first, and her young daughter. Many of the episodes just featured her going over her problems with her neighbors over a cup of coffee. This formed my ideas of adult life because when I came home from school, my mother was usually having a cup of coffee with one or two of her friends.

There are some videos on you tube, but mostly from the years after I watched the show. When the shows ended each day, my mother and my grandmother often discussed the day's happenings. Better than Judge Judy or reality shows, I guess, but just barely.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Songs That Remind Me of Summer

TVs Worst Villain

I am sure most people would choose a character from HOMICIDE or THE WIRE or BREAKING BAD. But to me the worst character on all of television is Frank Gallagher (William Macy) on SHAMELESS. Over the course of the show, he has murdered, told his young son (falsely) he had cancer, stole money from his kids, perpetrated innumerable scams, used his kids in every way imaginable. It goes on and on. It is bad enough when a villain does harm to adults but Frank hurts his own kids over and over without giving it a thought. Sadly most of his antics seem all too real. If he has any good characteristics I have yet to see them.