Saturday, January 31, 2015

"How I Came To Write This Story" Columbkill Noonan, "The Curse of the Glamis Castle"

HISTORY AND HORROR, OH MY is a collection of horror stories that take place in the past or  make use of an historical event. You can peruse it on the links at the bottom. This is the story of one story from the anthology.

Glamis Ghost

I was researching my family history, and discovered a connection with Glamis Castle in Scotland. During a subsequent vacation to Scotland, I took a tour of Glamis Castle. I snapped pictures all over the castle, including one of the Kings Bed (an old fashioned, short bed hung with red curtains where kings of England would sleep whilst visiting the castle). When I looked at the pictures later that evening, I noticed that there, sitting on the bed, plain as day, was an image of a little boy, who appeared to be wearing period garb. I got goosebumps, because I had taken the picture in broad daylight, and there had been no boy on the bed. In fact, the entire castle had been empty save for the tour guide and myself: no other visitors, no other staff, not even a cleaning crew! I then read a book that the Castle Administrator had given me, about legends concerning the castle, and there was a story about a little page boy who had died hundreds of years ago when he was forgotten during a punishment and left to freeze when the fires died down, and his spirit is said to haunt that very room. Needless to say, I felt that the only thing to do was construct a story around that tale, as a kind of homage to that poor little page boy.

I visited Scotland in January, and Glamis Castle was closed to visitors for the winter. Luckily for me, the Castle Administrator took pity on my plight, and arranged for me to have a private tour of the castle.

Columbkill Noonan has an M.S. in Biology, and teaches Anatomy and Physiology at a university in Maryland. An avid history buff, much of her writing, which could be best described as “supernatural historical horror”, combines historical events with elements of paranormal fantasy.  Her first novel, Night Woods, is available as an e-book on She is currently working on her second novel, which was inspired by a trip to Scotland, particularly by the grim castles and spooky underground alleys of Edinburgh.

In her spare time, Columbkill enjoys hiking, scuba diving, and riding her horse, Mittens. To learn more about Columbkill, and to hear breaking news about her latest works, please feel free to visit her at .

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Bad Plus: We Are the Champions

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, January 30, 2015

The links can be found at IN REFERENCE TO MURDER (B.V. Lawson's site) right here. 

Evan Lewis will be manning the helm next Friday, February 6th. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Bad Plus: Heart of Gold

What is Wonderful About the World?

Emily St. John Mandel said (on @Bksandauthors) when she was thinking about her novel, STATION ELEVEN, (a post-apocalyptic story) her husband asked her, "what is wonderful about the world?'
 She came up with the work of William Shakespeare and uses that as a major plot point in her novel.

What is wonderful about the world? 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Bad Plus: Knowing Me is Knowing You


When an 11-year old girl is seen being dragged into a car kicking and screaming, the police issue an Amber alert. As the minutes and hours pass by, they know their chances of rescuing the girl diminishes. As Tony Hill reviews the evidence however, he becomes less and less convinced that this is an abduction by a stranger and believes that the girl must have known her attacker. The missing girl's mother is overwrought and her stepfather has a conviction for assault. A sudden twist however changes the entire nature of the investigation leading Tony and DI Alex Fielding to realize they had made a fundamental error at the outset.(From IMDB)

This is a very fine episode. To tell you why would ruin it. It is clever in its setup and clever in the denouement. Despite watching it on a defective DVD, I was riveted.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Bad Plus with Wendy Lewis: How Deep is Your Love

Why We Don't Finish Books

I only finish a small percentage of books I start. ( I have said this before). My reasons for this are varied and here are a few recent ones.

Book One: Although the writing is very fine and although there is a fair amount of clever humor, nothing happens. Page after page of nothing happening. And the writing is too self-consciously clever.

Book Two: I could not follow the scientific information in it and this occupied too much of the book for me to skim it. This is not the author's fault. It is mine.

Book Three: A mystery that is an endless series of detective interviews. There is little character development, little good writing. Just following the detective around while he interviews people. The plot might turn out to be clever but I need more than someone following their nose.(This is why I have never gotten into LEWIS on Masterpiece).

Book Four: Looks like this is going to be another serial killer story after all. I have to hear his voice every few chapters too. And I have to think about his victim in the closet. Same old, same old nut.

Book Five: Didn't you do this in your last book, Author? Aren't you writing about the same place, with the same guy, with the same observations again? 

What about you? What was your recent for not finishing a recent book?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Book You Recommend Most

For years I have been trying to get people to read TIME WILL DARKEN IT by William Maxwell and today in the NYT book review, Daniel Handler picked it as a favorite too. So I am not its only fan!

What book have you been trying to get people to read for years?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Jerry Butler: One Night Affair


Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, January 23, 2015

 From the archives. 

Toni L.P. Kelner suspects the Brains Books influenced her "Where are they now?" series--they have real settings, are filled with odd facts, and she hopes Tilda Harper is a character you'll like hanging out with.

The Brains Benton Books: The Case of the Forgotten Series

When Patti first invited me to participate on Friday's Forgotten Books, I was all excited to have a chance to talk about an author I just adore and who is seldom talked about any more: Dorothy Gilman. Then it was announced that Ms. Gilman is getting a much deserved MWA Grand Master Award in 2010. This is wonderful news, without a doubt, but I don't think she can legitimately be called forgotten anymore.
So I've decided to go back even further to the series of mysteries I loved I was growing up: the Brains Benton books. I read and reread those books more times than I can count.

I know, most of you are scratching your heads over these books. I admit that it's a pretty obscure series. According to Wikipedia, the books came out in the late 1950s and early 1960s, They were originally published by the Golden Press, and later reprinted by Whitman Books. Charles Spain Verral wrote the first one, then George Wyatt continued the series with lots of rewriting from Verral. I don't think it was ever wildly popular, and there were only six books in the series.

Actually, as far as I was concerned, there were only three. That's how many of the books my big sister Brenda had and then passed on to me. (One of the best gifts any young reader can ever have is a big sister willing to share her books--I was luck enough to have three!) Brenda had the first three of the series: The Case of the Missing Message, The Case of the Counterfeit Coin, and The Case of the Stolen Dummy. I didn't even find out there were other books until years later, and it wasn't until the web came around that I tracked down the volumes I was missing. And though it's hard to look at them with any trace of objectivity, I think they're still pretty good reads.

Read this paragraph, the first from The Case of the Missing Message, and see if you aren't charmed:

"I might as well explain right away that my name is Jimmy Carson and I live at 43 Maple Street in the town of Crestwood. I'm a detective. And if anybody tries to tell you that a boy like me can't be a real detective and get mixed up in an honest-to-goodness mystery...well, I wish he'd been along the night my partner and I investigated the spooky old Madden house."

Jimmy was an average kid in the almost painfully average town of Crestview. But he had one thing most kids don't: a best friend and partner like Brains Benton, who was a certifiable genius. Together they formed a detective agency complete with secret passwords, code names, and a secret hideout about the Benton family garage. As they tackled kidnappers, counterfeiters, and swindlers, Jimmy was the Watson to Brains' s Holmes, sometimes the Archie Goodwin to Brains's Nero Wolfe. While Brains was amazingly intelligent and worthy of admiration, sometimes he was kind of a snot. Jimmy, on the other hand, was a great guy to hang out with. He made mistakes like trusting the wrong person and misusing equipment, and wasn't nearly as smart as Brains, but he was loyal and tenacious, and never gave up on a case.

The books had a comforting sense of realism. Jimmy didn't have a roadster like Nancy Drew--he had a bicycle. His father wasn't as exotic as the Hardy Boys' father--I think he was an insurance salesman. He and Brains didn't go to exotic locales, unless you count the circus or the nearby lake where they went for the summer. Yet I learned the oddest facts from those books, information about topics ranging from infrared photography to ancient coins to stock car racing. There was some danger, of course, but nothing over-the-top--just enough to get my heart racing. They were just so much fun!

And since I had to pull out the books to write this post, I just might start reading the series all over again.

Brian Busby, MURDER IN MAJORCA, Michael Bryan (Brian Moore)
Casual Debris, WHO WILL RUN THE FROG HOSPITAL, Lorrie Moore
Bill Crider, GUN GLORY FOR TEXANS, Marshall McCoy
Martin Edwards, THE HEIRS OF ANTHONY BOUCHER, Marv Lachman
Rick Horton, FINNLEY WREN, Philp Wylie
Jerry House. MORE DIXIE GHOSTS, ed. by McSherry, Waugh and Greenbert
Randy Johnson
George Kelley, Loren D. Estleman's stories about Peter Mackin
Margot Kinberg, CRADLE TO GRAVE, Eleanor Kuhn
Rob Kitchin, A DARK SONG OF BLOOD, Ben Pastor
B.V. Lawson, THE GREY FLANNEL SHROUD, Henry Slezar
Evan Lewis, HEADED FOR A HEARSE, Jonathan Latimer
Steve Lewis, THE RANGE BUSTER, William Heuman
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris, COMLYN ALIBI, Headon Hill
James Reasoner. RUSTLER OF OWLHORNS, Jim O'Mara
Richard Robinson, DEATH WORLD, Harry Harrison
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THRILLER 2:: STORIES YOU CAN'T PUT DOWN, Clive Cussler
TomCat, UNHAPPY HOOLIGAN, Stuart Palmer
TracyK, SALVATION OF A SAINT, Keigo Higashino
Prashant Trikannad, THE ACCUSED, Harold R. Daniels

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Intruders: Win, Place or Show

HomeAnti-Heroes: A panel discussion with Adam Sternbergh, Emily Nussbaum, A.O Scott, and Megan Abbott

01/27/2015 7:00 pm 
Former New York Magazine Culture Editor Adam Sternbergh will celebrate the release of NEAR ENEMY, the dynamite follow-up to his beloved debut SHOVEL READY, and another  lean noir thriller which returns us to a half-deserted New York dystopia, to the adventures of garbage-man turned unvarnished psychopath, Spademan, and to a corrupt, crime-ridden vision of the future far more plausible than we might think.

Join Sternbergh for a discussion of  the role and relevance of the anti-hero in fiction and TV—with Emily Nussbaum (New Yorker TV critic), A.O. Scott (NYT film critic), and author Megan Abbott (The Fever).


Now available: How the West Was Written, Vol. 2 (1907-1915)

How the West Was Written continues the chronology of western writers that began in the first volume with Mary Hallock Foote's The Led-Horse Claim (1883). Here is a short description of the new volume from its introduction: 

During the years 1907–1915, frontier fiction boomed with new writers, and the success of Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902) began to make itself felt in their work. That novel had made the bestseller lists for two years running. With the continued popularity of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show, and the appearance of one-reeler westerns on movie screens, many featuring the adventures of Bronco Billy Anderson, the cowboy hero was becoming an established mythic figure in the public imagination. 

New writers capitalizing on this interest begin to emerge in numbers and include Zane Grey, Dane Coolidge, Charles Alden Seltzer, William MacLeod Raine, and Eugene Manlove Rhodes. Fans of cowboy westerns will find this book's discussion of these storytellers of particular interest.
Meanwhile, for writers of popular fiction, the frontier was also a subject for exploring ideas drawn from current public discourse—ideas about character and villainy, women’s rights, romance and marriage, democracy and government, capitalism, race and social boundaries, and the West itself. With each new publication, they participated as well in an ongoing forum for how to write about the West and how to tell western stories.
Taken together, the chapters of this book describe for modern-day readers and writers the origins of frontier fiction and the rich legacy it has left us as a genre. It is also a portal into the past, for it offers a history of ideas as preserved in popular culture of a century ago that continues to claim an audience today.

Currently available at amazon for kindle and in paperback. Also in paper at Createspace. Order both volumes from amazon here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

48 Years Today.

Remembering the day: my mother planned the entire wedding because I was 18 and had no idea what a wedding should be like. The only ones I had been to were church basement affairs of my cousins on one side, and the wedding of another cousin in Darien Ct. at a country club. One of the Hiltons was in attendance.

Mine was like neither.

The only thing I held out for was a short dress. I had tripped on my full-length prom dress the year before and had fears of repeating that. 125 people were invited and the reception was at the now gone Sunken Gardens Restaurant in Philadelphia. We had no money for a band but the restaurant had one, which we made good use of. It was a gorgeous day, a surprising fifty some degrees and sunny. A funeral director my parents knew drove us there in his limousine.

Dad and me
I had three bridesmaids, all dressed in short aqua dresses, which we had bought for very little at Gimbels Department Store. I am still in touch with one of them. After the reception ended, we went back to New Brunswick for a few days and then I returned to Philly, resumed my job with the phone company, waiting for my promised transfer.

Living with my parents for three months was pretty awful. When Phil picked me up on the weekends, my mother expressed regret that we wanted to go back to New Brunswick since our time with them was growing short. I also resumed  my teenage chores of cleaning the bathroom on Saturday mornings and drying the dishes after dinner. They didn't give me my allowance though.

When I finally got my transfer to New Jersey Bell, things improved until my mother started asking about grandchildren.  Three years later, Josh was born and the next year Megan. What a great life. Sure there has been a tragedy or two, but never one between us.  

To my exemplary husband, I love you.  And to my parents, I miss you.

Books about World War II.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Phil and I are reading Patrick Hamilton's books about World War 11. What are some of your favorite books set during the second world war?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Linda Thompson, Ooh, What A Night

Neglected Movies: FORCE MAJEUR

This is a new movie but one neglected by the Academy. I always wonder why only five films from the rest of the world is enough. And I also wonder if films like this one, about a middle-class family, are at a disadvantage. It is hard to compete with films about atrocities, famine and such. Many of the nominees seem to fall into that category.

When the list of foreign films nominated for Oscars came out last week, I was pretty shocked to see that this Swedish film was not on the final list. It make the short list but not the final five. I have only seen one of the nominated films (IDA, which was terrific too), but this one was equally brilliant.

I wanted to get it up on here in case it came you way. We saw it ON DEMAND and were blown away by it.

A Swedish family takes a ski vacation. They are enjoying lunch at an outdoor restaurant when it appears that an avalanche is rushing toward them. The father (Johannes Kuhnke) tells the family it is a controlled avalanche but moments later changes his mind, picks up his cell phone, and takes off. His wife stays with the children under their table. (This was an extremely frightening scene, beautifully put together).

Two things happen: the father cannot admit he ran away and his wife cannot let go of both his failure to protect the family and his failure to admit his cowardice. The rest of the film watches their family begin to splinter under the weight of this standoff.

Some of the scenes play as a black comedy and others black as true tragedy. And the ending has an ambivalence that the director (Ruben Ostlund) is known for.  Maybe there were better films this year but this certainly is at the top of my list.

What film or performance did you expect to see nominated and didn't?

Monday, January 19, 2015

I Will Survive: Gloria Gaynor

Joan Crawford

When I put up a video of MILDRED PIERCE last week, I got several negative comments about Joan Crawford. And I have to agree, she was one actress I never took to. And when I look over her output on IMDB, I see that I have never seen the majority of her work. I think WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE is one of the few I am sure I have seen in its entirety. Even when she played perfectly nice or even noble woman, something felt off. Her style of acting was too emphatic for me.It was always clear she was acting--but naturalism was late to come to movies perhaps.

What Joan Crawford movie stands out for you? Or do you shy away from her as well. Here is her output on IMDB.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


A Pocketful of Sand, by Albert Tucher (Needle, Winter 2014-2015)
 In 1994 my brother, who was then a Coast Guard officer, had just been posted to Hawaii. He and his wife knew no one in the islands at that point, and I decided to spend Thanksgiving with them. I thought I was doing my family duty. I am not a tropical kind of guy at all, and I expected one visit to last a lifetime.
Twenty years later I have returned a dozen times. I have visited the four main islands, but my favorite is Hawaii, aka The Big Island. The range of experience there takes includes active volcanoes, some of the world’s best beaches, the rainforest, and high country that could pass for Wyoming or Montana.
On one visit in the year 2000 I hiked down into the Waipi’o Valley in the northeast of the island. The only access to the valley is a road so steep that two-wheel-drive vehicles lose their grip and free fall hundreds of feet. It has happened.
“And God said, let me tell you about green.” That’s how one of my characters describes the valley. Green becomes a new experience, and so does the white of brilliant waterfalls draping themselves over the rim.
We’re not in Newark anymore.
Forty to fifty residents try to get away from it all in the valley, which is big enough to have supported a population of about three thousand in the days before the Europeans arrived. Without wishing to give offense, I am forced to say that a substantial percentage of the residents are misanthropic in the extreme. I have heard that they also tend to feud among themselves, and that the Hawaii County Police leave them to pursue their social lives without interference.
Not all hazards are human. Wild pigs and horses roam the valley. I encountered a stallion obstructing a trailhead and plainly daring anyone to challenge him. I didn’t.
The year 2000 was also when I began to write about my series character, prostitute Diana Andrews. After sampling the intoxicating brew of beauty and menace in the Waipi’o Valley, I knew I had to send Diana there. In one of my still unpublished novels, called Tentacles, she tries to earn the biggest payday of her career by backpacking into the valley with a client who neglects to mention that some very nasty people are after him.
One of the supporting characters in that novel is a Hawaii County Police detective named Errol Coutinho, and it turns out that he can carry stories of his own. So far, A Pocketful of Sand is the most substantial Coutinho story to see publication. His territory is the Hilo side of the island, and in particular the region known as Puna, in the southeast. The population center of Puna, the small town of Pahoa, has been making the news lately, as it waits to be overwhelmed by lava from the current eruption of Kilauea.
Puna is the heart of the rainforest. Sparsely populated and lightly policed, it is home to marijuana farmers, meth cookers, survivalists, fugitives, and Sixties holdovers. Several notorious crimes in the region have stimulated my imagination. Some names to Google: Dana Ireland, Ken and Yvonne Mathison, Brittany Royal, Boaz Johnson.
As far as I know, no writer of crime fiction has used this setting, which is a natural for noir. If I’m right about that, I’m willing to go first.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, January 16, 2015

 Now that I am on Pacific Time, this will probably come up late. Sorry.


I loved this book. but I am not sure how many of you would. It is quiet, slow. and lethally wicked in its depiction of life in a boarding house well outside London during World War II. Miss Roach, our central character, is driven from her job (teaching) and her home (London) due to the blitz and takes refuge here. She becomes the victim of a very nasty, albeit rather hapless man, a lothario U.S. soldier, and a would-be female friend. The writing is just so on the mark--a bit like Anita Brookner or Barbara Pym but a bit more acerbic. Miss Roach's trials last for most of the book, but in the end, she triumphs.

Mark Baker, THE BLACK ECHO, Michael Connelly
Brian Busby, DAUGHTERS OF DESIRE, Fletcher Knight
Bill Crider, A CENTURY OF FANTASY, 1980-89, ed. Robert Silverberg
Martin Edwards, DEADLIER THAN THE MALE, Jessica Mann
Ray Garraty, SOMEBODY OWES ME MONEY, Donald Westlake
Rick Horton, COLLECTED SHORT STORIES, Kingsley Amis
Randy Johnson, TOKEN OF REMORSE, Michael Stone
George Kelley, THE RISEN EMPIRE and THE KILLER OF WORLDS, Scott Westerfield
Margot Kinberg, JUST ANOTHER ANGEL, Michael Ripley
Rob Kitchin, RED BONES, Ann Cleeves
B. V. Lawson, MURDER ON THE RUN, The Round Table
Evan Lewis, TOO MANY MAVERICKS, James A. Lawson
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, CATS DON'T SMILE, D.B. Olsen
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris, THE OFFICIIAL CHAPERONE, Natalie Sumner Lincoln
Juri Nummelin, THE STRAW MEN, Michael Marshal
Graham Powell. 101 YEARS' ENTERTAINMENT, ed. Ellery Queen
James Reasoner, THE SUCKER, Orrie Hitt
Richard Robinson, ROMAN BLOOD, Stephen Saylor
Gerard Saylor, THE TREATMENT, Mo Hayder
Ron Scheer, LIVING ON JACKS AND QUEENS, ed. Robert J. Randisi
R.T., FALLING MAN, Don Delillo
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, MASTERS OF NOIR, vol 1
TracyK , THIRTY-NINE STEPS, John Buchan
Prashant Trikannad, THE SECRET SENSE, Issac Asimov

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Over My Head

I am reading THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir and must confess more than half of it is well beyond me. Although I took four science classes in college none prepared me for the principles you need to understand to follow this book fully. But somehow I am getting enough out of it to continue through.

This sort of trouble also dogs me with complex financial plots. Or even the parlance in spy novels.

Is there any type of book that made you similarly at bay? Did you finish it anyway?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015




This show lasted only one year (1995-96) and I am not sure I saw every episode.  Bruce Greenwood plays a photo-documentary maker whose whole existence is erased in the time it takes to use a restroom. It appears everyone in his life has been persuaded to lie to him. He comes to believe that his circumstances relate somehow to a photo he took of four men being hanged in South American.

It harkens to a lot of other movies and shows like CORONET BLUE, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, etc. It was expected to be a huge hit, got great reviews, but disappeared. I love this sort of show, but they often seem to self-destruct. Maybe in 1996 we weren't ready for story arcs quite yet. Or maybe this should have been a movie rather than a TV show since it hung so much on a conceit.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Gidget Scene

L.A. Confidential Scene

How Seriously Is Dinner Taken in Your House?

I have a friend who sits down each week and writes menus for the week ahead and then a grocery list. She shops at several stores to get the cut of meat or wine or vegetables she wants.
She cooks serious recipes from cookbooks by Julia Child and James Beard.

She was a college professor and scholar for her entire career so she is not a mere domestic goddess.

I have another friend who basically has the same dinner every night. A veggie burger on multi-grain bread and some spinach. Preparing and even eating food holds no interest for her.

At my house, Phil prepares fairly complex meals. When I cook, it is much less interesting. I come from a mother who basically cooked chops and frozen vegetables. But oh, how thin I was then.

What goes on dinner-wise in your house? Is your dinner a fairly formal affair or catch as catch can?

Friday, January 09, 2015

Little Old Lady from Pasadena

Friday's Forgotten Bools, Friday, January 9, 2015

Charlie Stella is the author of JOHNNY PORNO, CHEAPSKATE and other fine crime novels.

John McFetridge, LET IT RIDE. 

John McFetridge’s Let It Ride presents a lot of subplots to keep readers engaged.  A husband and wife, fresh from a swing party, are mistakenly whacked by a hit man while in a semi-compromising position in their car while driving home from a swing party.The hit man could only see the driver (so yous figure out the position).  A couple of veterans used to hustling drugs and guns out of Afghanistan are joined in Toronto where one of them, 
JT (a Canadian Afghanistan veteran) is about to earn his full patch (become a made man, so to speak) for the gang run by Richard Tremblay (another subplot), a full patch who seeks the ultimate power (cappo di tutti cappi, so to speak). Vernard “Get” McGetty is the Detroit half of the connection and always looking for something better.  After delivering some hardware up to JT in Toronto, he’s shown the ropes of the motorcycle gang world (and notices how many of the motorcyclists drive SUV’s) … JT shows him how they operate and it is impressive.
There’s also Sunitha, an Indian "rub and tug" (hand job) hooker with a second gig heading a small band of women who rob massage parlors of the almost rich and not so famous.  She wants more and is ambitious enough to get it.  Once she hooks up with Get (after JT takes him for some relief), she sees gold in her future.
Literally gold.
There’s also a subplot that has to do with the law trying to solve the couple murdered in their car … Maureen McKeon is cop no longer satisfied with her home life, her husband or young infant ... and she’s drinking again.
There are also those pesky, but not so powerful eye-talians out and about; with a subplot within their story as well.
Hookers and hit men abound … the names of the characters sub-title each chapter so there’s no reason to get lost.  Let It Ride is chock full of references to the author the author of Let it Ride is most often compared to (say that three times fast).  The name Elmore Leonard and several of his works make a few appearances, in tribute, I suspect.  The references work well, as does the writing in this exciting page turner from the Toronto Bills very own crime fiction specialist.
The bit about full patches … essentially, a Full Patch = Made Man … north of the border there are motorcycle gangs that operate much the same way traditional organized crime does (or did); those seeking full honors in the program need to prove themselves over time … earn their stripes (so to speak) and then be approved by a board (of sorts) before they can become full patch members. There are rules one needs to abide along the way (or at least not get caught breaking them) and some are pretty similar to those the Italian-American mob are supposed to abide by.
Like don’t screw the wife of a made guy/full-patch and get caught without expecting to meet your maker.  It’s one of the rules tested by JT … 
No spoilers here … but know that McFetridge does very good work.  He teaches as well as entertains.  Let It Ride offers convincing snapshots of the different characters who inhabit our world.  Like them or not, their choices are much more understandable by the novel’s several endings (each character has one, whether open ended or not).  I never imagined motorcycle gangs were so powerful until I saw a documentary on the subject.  It was chilling.  Let It Ride was a reminder of just how powerful a group of determined sociopaths can be in a society unprepared for the violence and protected by law enforcement as corruptible as politicians.
Take a journey with this character driven novel of crime that takes place north of the border.  You’ll meet interesting people at each turn; characters that both frighten and intrigue.  Let It Ride is the character driven page turner we expect from McFetridge and we’re always glad to see some of his characters from prior works appear.  Comparisons to the master from Detroit are valid.North of the boarder, McFetridge’s people inhabit the gritty world it is better to read about than taste first hand.  Let It Ride lets us do that. An intriguing novel about opportunistic characters seizing their day.  Carpe Diem indeed.  McFetridge is the real deal


Joe Barone, TOO BIG TO MISS, Sue Ann Jaffarian
Brian Busby, UNDER SEALED ORDERS, Grant Allen
Bill Crider, THE LIBERATED FUTURE, Robert Hoskins ed.
Martin Edwards, AT THE VILLA ROSA, A. E. W. Mason
Curt Evans, WISTERIA COTTAGE, Robert M Coates
Rick Horton, WHEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER, Edwin Caskodin
Jerry House, THE WITCHING LAND, Hugh B. Cave
Randy Johnson, DANGER: DINOSAURS, Evan Hunter
George Kelley, BATWING AND FIRE-TONGUE, Sax Rohmer
Margot Kinberg, CONFESSIONS, Kanae Minato
Rob Kitchin, LET THE DEAD LIE, Malla Nunn
B.V. Lawson, THE BAIT, Dorothy Uhnak
Steve Lewis/Mark Nevins, THE HOT SPOT, Charles Williams
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, THE SNAKE EATER, William Tapply
Todd Mason
Neer, A Baker's Dozen: Favorite Books of 2014
J.F Norris, GROANING SPINNEY, Gladys Mitchell
Juri Nummelin, THE STRAW MEN, Michael Marshall
James Reasoner, OPERATION OUTER SPACE, Murray Leinster
Richard Robinson, SCARLET RIDERS, ed. Don Hutchinson
Gerard Saylor, WHERE THE DEAD LAY, William Levien
Ron Scheer, KARNAK CAFE, Naguib Mahfouz
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, BIMBOS OF THE DEATH SUN, Sharyn McCrumb
TomCat, CASE CLOSED, Gosho Ayoma
TracyK, A LATE PHOENIX, Catherine Aird
Prashant Trikannad, A CENTURY OF NOIR, ed. Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Hooray for Hollywood

First Wednesday Book Review: ORDINARY GRACE, William Kent Krueger

ORDINARY GRACE won just about all the awards the crime fiction community has to offer last year, and it is easy to see why. In this book, Krueger takes a break from his series detective and steps into a story that is timeless, and the crime, although not incidental, is not the primary attraction here.

The story takes place in a small Minnesota town in 1961. (The period detail is superb). Nathan Drum is a minister. He was set to be a lawyer until the war took any desire for courtroom combat out of him. This career change doesn't sit well with his wife, an atheist, who saw her life unfolding differently. But the family grows, with a daughter and two sons. Our narrator is Frank, a thirteen year old, who also serves as our detective when things begin to go awry. Much of the drama concerns the Drums' relationship with a family down the road that represents the life Mrs. Drum hoped to have.

This is book is about prejudice, the striving of ordinary men to do good, the misreadings that children make of adult situations, the conflict between the religious and the nonreligious, the rush to judgment both a town and its ill-prepared police force almost makes.

It is a deep and lovely written book that is worth your time. Highly recommended.

More book reviews can be found at Barrie Summy's place, right here. 

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

California: Joni Mitchell


MAD ABOUT YOU was on television for seven years from 1992-99. It concerned the marriage of a young couple played by Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser. He was a documentary film-make and she a publicist. Also featuring large in the stories was her sister played by Anne Ramsay, Jamie's business partner played by Leila Kenzle, and Paul's cousin played by John Pankow.

The show often played out like a stage play and was inventive in its use of time and space. It wasn't afraid of a lot of dialog, a certain tweeness in the story lines. If you were of a certain age, a certain milieu the series spoke to you. Although they moved onto parenthood by the end of the run, it felt like it had already run its course and the Buchmans were forever creatures of the nineties.

Monday, January 05, 2015

California: California Girls

Some of My Favorite Books of 2014

I lost my list transitioning computers. So this is mostly based on memory and in no particular order.
 I am sure I forgot a few that should be on here. Four of these were read after seeing a movie and two in anticipation of movies so I see how influential movies are on my reading

 THE DINNER, Herman Koch
 THE GIVER, Lois Lowry
 THE FEVER, Megan Abbott
 THE HUSBAND'S SECRET, Liane Moriarity
 STUMPED, Rob Kitchin
 UNDER THE SKIN, Michael Faber
 THE HOT SPOT, Charles Williams
 THE MOTEL LIFE, Willie Vautin
 ORDINARY GRACE, William Kent Kruger

Friday, January 02, 2015

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, January 2, 2015

A young female con-artist, Dottie, happens upon a slow-witted man, Aubrey Wallace.  Aubrey, who has a family of his own, deserts them and and the two snatch a child from her playpen to complete their family. For mentally challenged Aubrey, he does what his heart tells him and he grows to love and adore Cannie, and Cannie believes them to be her parents. Years pass and they remain homeless, always trying to keep one step ahead of the law. Their life is sad, wrenching and as the situtions become more complicated, Aubrey struggles with right and wrong, love and abuse. Eventually Dottie grows tired of the limitations of her partner and Cannie begins to want the normal life she sees all around her. What a sad story.
I read this book in 1989. It was her first novel and what a beginning it was. 

Casual Debris, Dr. Faustus, Christopher Marlowe
Bill Crider, RENEGADE POSSE, Marvin H. Albert
Martin Edwards, DISGRACE TO THE COLLEGE, G.D.H. and Margaret Cole
Curt Evans, THE FINAL FIVE for 2014
Richard Horton, PALLADIAN, Elizabeth Taylor
Jerry House, I AM LEGEND, Richard Matheson (but this is a graphic version)
Randy Johnson, THE EXECUTIONER: Two Books by Stephen Mertz
George Kelley, Four books by Marshall Jevons
Margot Kinberg, MERCY, Jussi Adler Olsen
Evan Lewis, Forgotten Books of 2014
Steve Lewis, THE NIGHT SHE DIED, Dorothy Simpson
J.F. Norris, THE MYSTERIOUS BADMAN, William Fryer Harvey
James Reasoner, SHORT BIER, Frank Kane
Gerard Saylor, MIDNIGHT RAMBLER, James Swain
Ron Scheer, EMPIRE BUILDERS, Francis Lynde
Kevin Tipple, FFB ROUNDUP FOR 2014
Prashant Trikannad, DUBAI, Robin Moore