Thursday, April 30, 2015


Robin Agnew's Bookshelves

Robin and Jamie Agnew have been running AUNT AGATHA'S in Ann Arbor for more than 20 years. It is the only crime fiction bookstore in Michigan and a place you want to hang out.

What book(s) are currently on your nightstand?

THE GHOST FIELDS, Elly Griffiths, and MRS. POLLIFAX ON SAFARI, Dorothy Gilman

Who is your favorite novelist of all time?
Only one??  F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen and Ngaio Marsh. Sorry, can't just do one.

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
My collection of books about figure skating, especially my treasured, signed copy of Johnny Weir's autobiography, 

Who is your favorite fictional hero?
Inspector Roderick Alleyn

What book do you return to?  
DEATH OF A PEER, Ngaio Marsh.  At last count have read it 12 times.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Forgotten Movies: SAFE



Talk about movies that stick with you, this one has haunted me since I saw it in a film class. Is she crazy or is she being poisoned by the world we live in? I don't know. But being safe is a luxury. Great performances and direction from Todd Haynes. Enigmatic movies are difficult to pull off but I think this one succeeded. Julianne Moore picks unusual parts and this one perhaps the most.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Dave Zeltserman's Shelves

             What books are currently on your nightstand?

             Border Town Girl by John D. MacDonald
             Firebreak by Richard Stark
             Who is your favorite novelist of all time? 

             Joseph Heller
             What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

              I doubt I have a single novel that would surprise anyone familiar with my writing. I    guess I'll go with my complete E. C. Seger Popeye volumes.

              Who is your favorite fictional hero?

              Continental Op 

              What book do you return to?
              Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

Dave Zeltserman is an award-winning noir, mystery and horror writer. His latest book, about demon hunting in Newton, Massachusetts, “The Boy Who Killed Demons,” is out now. Two of his crime novels, “Small Crimes” and “Outsourced,” are currently in film development and both are scheduled to go into production this summer.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Stan Kenton, Berlin, 1953

How I Came to Write This Book: Alex Azar

Growing up, while most kids my age were watching Thundercats and Voltron, I was watching those as well. However, I also found myself gravitating to my father's VHS collection, more specifically the black and white mysteries. I remember watching "The Thin Man" starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, and loving every minute of every joke I was too young to understand. That movie, along with "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Big Sleep" led me to reading their respective literary influences and the other books by Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler.  Maybe not so naturally, reading those books led me to H.P. Lovecraft and his weird world of Cthulhu Mythos, and from then on I was hooked.  I crafted Detective James S. Peckman's world with influences from each of those authors, and countless others, while still trying to make it unique to my view.  That's why I have the detective take on all manner of bizarre cases, and this is why much of the book takes place in my home state of New Jersey, which I'm not afraid to admit I'm proud to be from.

Nightmare Noir opens the casebook of Detective James S. Peckman, taking us into the underbelly of a world where true evil exists. After his wife and daughter died under supernatural circumstances, Peckman left the police force to pursue the monsters most believe exist only in nightmares. Now, Peckman and his partners take the cases that cannot be explained in the world we think we know.

Alex Azar is an author born and raised in New Jersey. He made the courageous decision to leave the glamorous life of an electrical engineer student behind and concentrate full time on his life long passion of writing. He is now a happily struggling author. This is his first full length publication.

TJ Halvorsen has worked for many of the major comic companies as a penciler, inker and background artist. TJ attended the Joe Kubert School for Cartoon and Graphic Design and earned his Associate's Degree in Graphic Design from the University of Colorado.

Amazon link:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Louis Armstrong: When the Saints Go Marching In

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, April 24, 2015

Over the next two-three weeks we will be moving and will be without Internet, among other things, from time to time. Todd is handling the next two weeks of Forgotten Fridays. I probably can't respond readily to much.

If you need to contact me, use my email address rather than the comment section on here.

Today, I am off to physical therapy. I will be back around 9:30 to add any latecomers.

Adam and Eve and Pinch Me by Ruth Rendell
(Review by Deb)

Published in 2002, Adam and Eve and Pinch Me (the title is from a childish joke that results in an innocent foil getting pinched) is much more in the tone of the books Ruth Rendell publishes under her alternate pen name of Barbara Vine than Rendell’s (now completed) series of police procedurals featuring Detective Inspector Reg Wexford.  The book is full of Barbara Vine tropes in which peoples’ lives are restricted by both internal decisions and external factors.
I think it was Stephen King who praised Ruth Rendell’s brilliant use of “malevolent coincidence” in describing how the confluence of fate and personality work in the lives of her (often) mentally-, socially-, and/or financially-limited characters.  Events that would seem far-fetched, even preposterous, in the hands of lesser writers are readily accepted in Rendell’s work because they proceed organically from the characters’ established habits, desires, and frames of mind.  Here are some examples of these coincidences in Rendell’s Adam and Eve and Pinch Me:

·         A ne’er-do-well man makes a spontaneous decision to see an afternoon movie, unaware that a mentally-fragile woman he has previously fleeced is also there and armed with a knife.
·         A closeted politician inadvertently leaves an important file in his lover’s apartment.  When he surreptitiously returns to retrieve it, he is left without an alibi for the time during which his wife’s ex-husband was murdered.
·         A married couple, each with significant health issues, decide to spend an afternoon walking on an isolated heath.  They, too, are left without an alibi for the time of the murder of their neighbor’s fiancĂ©—a man they both dislike.
·         A woman forgets to bring her lunch to work.  Returning home to retrieve it, she encounters a repairman who she mistakes for someone else, with tragic consequences.
In Adam and Eve and Pinch Me, Jerry Leach (aka Jerry Leigh aka John/Jock Lewis) has long ago left his wife, Zillah, and their two children for the greener pastures of a serial progression of single women, all of whom own their own homes and have healthy bank balances.  Jerry (changing or adapting his name as it suits circumstances) lives on these women (often promising them marriage, although he is actually not divorced from Zillah) until they get tired of him or he meets a likelier prospect.

One of those prospects is Minty Knox, a character familiar in the Rendell/Vine universe:  a woman the reader can clearly see is mentally ill but who manages to conceal the extent of her condition from the people around her (who do not have the readers’ advantage of hearing Minty’s inner monologues or observing her compulsive cleaning and dietary habits).  When Jerry leaves Minty (somehow convincing her that he has died in a train accident), she does not chalk it up to experience and move on; instead, she dwells obsessively on her life savings--money she gave to Jerry.  The thought of this money and what she was planning to do with it (install a new shower in her bathroom) haunts her almost as much as the ghosts she sees and voices she hears:  her late aunt, Jerry, Jerry’s mother, and others.  The voice talk to—one might say, hector—Minty continually until she resolves that drastic action is the only way to make them stop.

Another of Jerry’s conquests is Fiona, an investment banker, who is devastated with grief when Jerry is found murdered.  In her misery, she inadvertently casts suspicion on her neighbors in the unsolved case.  Then, when a similar murder takes place, it is Fiona who finds herself a possible suspect.

Meanwhile, Jerry’s wife Zillah has entered into a “marriage of convenience” with a gay Tory politician, neglecting to mention to him that she is still married.  Rendell paints this politician—a dreadful snob with the double-barreled name of James Melcombe-Smith—as the nastiest character in the book; not because of his sexuality, but because of his hypocrisy in espousing the anti-gay positions of his Conservative Party base in his ambition to climb the ladder of politics.  He too will be hoist on his own petard when Jerry’s death is discovered.

A number of other characters, secondary but fully-fleshed out (including Minty’s vibrant and kind-hearted neighbors, Zillah’s older-than-her-years daughter, and a tough-minded journalist who just happens to be one of Jerry’s ex-flings), populate the book—each with their part to play as events and the main characters’ reactions to them spin intricate webs that trap and confine.  Some of these webs are the characters’ own creations and some are due to our old friend, the malevolent coincidence.

(from the archives)
IN THE LAST ANAYSIS, Amanda Cross (Carolyn Gold Heilbrun)

Amanda Cross wrote 14 books about Kate Fansler, an English Professor who solved crimes and cogitated on the issues of the day: feminism being foremost in her mind.

In this her first novel, a student, referred by Professor Fansler to a psychoanalyst friend, is found stabbed to dead on his couch, his fingerprints on the knife. Fansler solves the murder with the help of her friend, ADA, Reed Amhearst. All of Cross' books take place in an academic setting and she uses it well to explore the issues of the day that concerned her.

Heilbrun, the mother of three children, was the first woman to receive tenure at Columbia University although it was not for writing this series, something that was looked down on by her colleagues.

Heilbrun committed suicide at the age of 77. She was not sick but perhaps feared illness or the loss of independence. She also believed fervently in the right to decide when to end one's own life. You can find more out about her last day here. 

Sergio Angelini, AND NONE SHALL SLEEP, Priscilla Masters
Yvette Banek, HOLIDAY HOMICIDE, Rufus King
Les Blatt, THE MYSTERY OF HUNTING'S END, Mignon Eberhart
Brian Busby, THE THREE ROADS, Kenneth Millar
Bill Crider, THE HEIRS OF ANTHONY BOUCHER, Marvin Lachman
CrimesintheLibrary, THE GENESIS SECRET, Tom KNox
Martin Edwards, WHO IS SIMON WARWICK Patricia Moyes
Ed Gorman/Fred Blosser, THE MOPPER UPPER, Horace McCoy
John Hegenberger, THE SECRET OF SAM MARLOW, Andrew Fenady
Rick Horton, ENGINE SUMMER, John Crowley
Jerry House, DICK TRACY AND THE NIGHTMARE MACHINE, Max Allan Collins and Dick Locher
Randy Johnson, TOUCHFEATHER, TOO, Jimmy Sangster
Nick Jones, A Gaggle of Graphic Novels
George Kelley, THE DAW SCIENCE FICTION READER, Donald Woolheim
Margot Kinberg, THE HANGING SHED, Gordon Ferris
B.V. Lawson, THE YELLOW TURBAN, Charlotte Jay
Evan Lewis, CONAN THE INVINCIBLE, Robert Jordan
Steve Lewis, A WREATH OF STARS, Bob Shaw
Todd Mason, GALAXY OF GHOULS, ed. Judith Merrill
Patrick Murtha, THE WRECKERS, Bella Bathurst
J.F. Norris, A HOUSE POSSESSED, Charity Blackstock
James Reasoner, RIVER RANGE, L.P. Holmes
Peter Rozovsky, MAN ON THE RUN, Charles Williams
Kerrie Smith, DEATH IN ECTASY, Ngaio Marsh
Kevin Tipple, LAKE CHARLES, Ed Lynskey
TracyK, THE MALTESE FALCON, Dashiell Hammett
Prashant Trikannad, GLADIATOR, Philip Wylie

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Count Basie: One O'Clock Jump

Kieran Shea's Shelves

QUESTION: What books are currently on your nightstand?

ANSWER:  Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon,  A Mencken Chrestomathy: His Own Selection of His Choicest Writing by H.L. Mencken,  Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy, The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette, and Treatise on Tolerance by Voltaire.

QUESTION: Who is your favorite novelist of all time?
 ANSWER: Thomas McGuane

QUESTION: What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

ANSWER: Guerrilla Warfare by Che Guevara, Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens, and
Peterson Field Guides to Eastern Birds (4th Edition) by Roger Tory Peterson.

QUESTION:  Who is your favorite fictional hero?

ANSWER:  Thomas Skelton, the protagonist in Thomas McGuane's 92 in the Shade

QUESTION:    What book do you return to?

 ANSWER: Moby Dick

KIERAN SHEA’s fiction has appeared in dozens of venues including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Thuglit, Dogmatika, Word Riot, Plots with Guns, Beat to a Pulp, Crimefactory, and Needle: A Magazine of Noir well as in some beefy-looking anthologies most of which will make you question the tether of his shiny, red balloon. To his self-deprecating astonishment he's also been nominated for the Story South’s Million Writers Award twice without sending the judges so much as a thank you note. He co-edited the satiric transgressive fiction collection D*CKED: DARK FICTION INSPIRED BY DICK CHENEY and his debut novel KOKO TAKES A HOLIDAY is out now from Titan Books. Kieran divides his time between 38°58′22.6″N- 76°30′4.17″W and 39.2775° N, 74.5750° W. KOKO THE MIGHTY is out next.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Benny Goodman: Minnie's In the Money

If You Only Read One Book by this Writer, read this one.

I thought this might be fun to play now and then. You can choose their first book, their best book, the book that is most indicative of their body of work. Whatever makes sense to you.

Let's take Donald Westlake today.

If you only read one book by Westlake, read THE AX. The action in this one never lets up; it reflected cleverly a phenomena of the time it was written; the protagonist is evil and yet you can sympathize with him enough; it is an awful lot of fun. It may not be typical Westlake, but if you only read one, I doubt you will have any more fun than THE AX provides.

Which Westlake do you choose?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Duke Ellington; Don't Mean A Thing



Directed by Marcel Carne
Written by Jacques Viot
Starring: Jean Gabin, Jules Berry, Jacqueline Laurent, Arletty

LE JOUR SE LEVE debuted in 1939 and quickly ran into trouble. Almost immediately it fell into the hands of the Vichy regime and numerous changes were made to make it more palatable to fascist standards of the time.
The film now making the rounds of art houses has been fully restored with all the missing parts reinstated.  And what a terrific film it is.
Gabin plays a sand-blaster in a working class French town who murders another man and barricades himself in his sixth floor room where he considers the actions that led to this event. The police employ various tactics to draw him out, but he refuses to emerge and instead fires shots at them, giving little care to where the bullets fly.
His story, told in flashback, is both romantic and sad. Two women enter into it and both are amazing in their roles. There are many gorgeous shots in this film and many surprises. It is the conversations between the four actors that form the nub of the plot, and the entire film, though light on crime after this first act, is about as noirish as it can be. Highly recommended.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Keith Rawson's Shelves

The real deal-Keith's shelfie

What books are currently on your nightstand?

For pure pleasure: Kill Fee By Owen Laukkanen and The Heart Does Not Grow Back By Fred Venturi. For book review: Find Me By Laura and den Berg and A Head Full Of Ghosts By Paul Tremblay.

Who is your all-time favorite novelist?

This seems to change month-to-month, but right now its James Ellroy, Roberto Bolano, and Denis Johnson.

What book might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

I have a small mountain of Anne Rule true crime paperbacks. True crime is kind of like my sleazy romance novels aka my guilty pleasure.

Who is your favorite fictional hero?

Big Pete Bondurant from James Ellroys Underworld USA trilogy.

What book do you most often return to?

The Ecstasy Of Influence By Jonathan Lethem. Im not a huge fan of Lethems novels, but his short fiction and his critical essays knock me on my ass. Whenever Im having a little difficulty getting myself writing, I usually pop open The Ecstasy Of Influence, read an essay, and then Im usually good to go.

Keith Rawson is the author of hundreds of short stories, essays, interviews, and articles. He is a regular contributor to He lives in southern Arizona with his wife and daughter, and you can find him at his website:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Great Music from Sixties Movies: A MAN AND A WOMAN

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, April 17, 2015

We are still shaken by the death earlier this week of Ron Scheer (BUDDIES IN THE SADDLE) and here is a tribute from Brian Busby who notes books set or written by Canadian authors. Here is another by B.V.  Lawson. They are many more if you google his name. We will not forget him quickly or easily. I wanted to post a poem for him. Most poems had mention of religion and I'm not sure how Ron felt about it. But this one leaves it open. It is slightly altered. And next a poem by a famous cowboy poet, which also seems apropos.

The time has come to say
Good-bye to all my cowboy friends.
Though our trails may be many miles apart.
May our friendship never end.

This gather's going to be my last,
For soon I'm headed South.
When spring brandin' smoke's in the air
I'll shed a tear no doubt.

You all have meant so much to me,
Of my life you're now a part.
Each one of you has bunkhouse space
That's deep here in my heart.

Good-bye to you where ere we met
For you see I'm Prineville bound.
No more my pony's feet on rocks
They'll tread a softer ground
And though I'll never ride again.
Up here where the eagles scream
I'll ride forever with each of you
Through these mountains in my dreams!

by Kendra Tyler

And this: 

Now back to Friday business:
from the archives - 

Al Tucher is the author of over 30 stories about the delightful Diana. The newest one is in BETTY FEDORA.


By George Harsh.

Since 1986 I have worked as a cataloger at the Newark Public Library, which has existed since 1883. The library has some very deep collections, and exploring them is both my job and a perk of my job. A recent project in the biography section brought me into contact with Lonesome Road, a 1971 memoir by George Harsh.

In 1928 Harsh was a rich, arrogant, idle young college student in Georgia. He and other rich, arrogant, idle young men spent much of their time discussing their superiority over the masses and the uses to which they should put that superiority. This was only four years after the Leopold and Loeb case, but it seems part of the “superman” pathology to dismiss possible lessons from anyone else’s experience. The young men in Harsh’s circle decided that they were able and therefore obligated to commit the perfect crime.

For the thrill of it they began a string of armed robberies. When a store clerk resisted, Harsh was the one holding the gun and the one who fired the lethal shot.

The police easily caught the young supermen, and Harsh was sentenced to death. His codefendants received life sentences, and the prosecutor, troubled by the disparity, succeeded in having Harsh’s sentence commuted to life. Writing years later, Harsh is unsparing toward his young self. He deserved to hang, he says, but he received more mercy than he had shown with the gun in his hand.

He spent the next several years on a Georgia chain gang that was brutal even by the standards of the time and place. Eventually, he became a trusty with a job as an orderly in a prison hospital.

Here we encounter the first of several plot twists that only reality can get away with writing. When an inmate needed an emergency appendectomy, a freak ice storm kept the staff physicians from reaching the hospital. Harsh, who had assisted at several such operations, performed the surgery and saved the man’s life. The governor of Georgia pardoned him.

The year was 1940. George Harsh felt undeserving of peace and security while so much of the world was at war. He traveled north and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Harsh flew numerous bombing missions over Germany. His luck ran out in 1942, when he was shot down. His captors sent him to Stalag Luft III.

Fiction writers, try getting away with that one. In the 1963 film The Great Escape, the character called Intelligence, played by Gordon Jackson, is based on Harsh. He was not one of the 80-plus POWs who made it through the tunnel before it was discovered, which was just as well. Only a handful made it to safety. The rest were recaptured, and the Gestapo summarily executed more than fifty of them.

Harsh survived a brutal forced march westward, away from the advancing Red Army. His narrative ends there.

His story does not. In 1945 he was in his mid-thirties and had spent mere days as a grown man neither incarcerated nor at war. In another twist that in its own way might be the strangest of all, he worked for a while as a publisher’s traveling sales representative. The experiment in freedom was not a success. The memory of his crime tormented him, and he attempted suicide. Later he suffered a stroke, and in 1980 he died.

No collaborator in the writing of this book is named. If it is Harsh’s work, it counts as a remarkable achievement. He knows when and how to make his writing as terse and urgent as Morse code in the night, and his meditations on freedom, imprisonment, violence and war come with a hard-earned authority.

Did George Harsh atone for his crime? It’s a tough call that will vary from reader to reader. Does his book deserve a place on the shelf? In my mind, beyond all doubt.

Sergio Angelini, CRIME ON MY HANDS, George Sanders and Craig Rice
Mark Baker, GRAND CANYON, Sandy Dengler
Joe Barone, PREY ON PATMOS, Jeffrey Siger
Bill Crider, DEATH ON THE CHEAP, Arthur Lyons
Martin Edwards, DEATH ON THE AGENDA, Patricia Moyes
Curt Evans, TOPER'S END, GDH Cole
Ed Gorman, BONJOUR TRISTESSE, Francoise Sagan
John Hegenberger, THE SOUND OF DETECTION, Francis M Nevins and Martin Grams Jr.
Rick Horton, BOUND TO RISE, Horatio Alger, Jr. 
Jerry House, SCALPS, Murray Leinster
Randy Johnson, TOUCHFEATHER, Jimmy Sangster
George Kelley, THE FORERUNNER SERIES, Andre Norton
Rob Kitchin, BLACKLANDS, Belinda Bauer
B.V. Lawson, MORSES' GREATEST CASE, Colin Dexter
Evan Lewis, FIVE BOOKS REVIEWED by Dashiell Hammett
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, THE GREEN ARCHER, Edgar Wallace
Todd Mason, SUPER WHOST, Margaret St. Clair
Patrick Murtha, BLIX, Frank Norris
James Reasoner, HOUSE OF LIVING DEATH, Arthur Leo Zagat
Richard Robinson, THE SAINT WANTED FOR MURDER, Leslie Charteris
Gerard Saylor, HEADS IN BEDS, Jacob Tomsky
Kerrie Smith, TRACKING NORTH, Kerrie McGinnis
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang A JADE IN ARIES, Tucker Coe

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Music from Sixties Movies: A SUMMER PLACE

Bill Crider's Shelves

What books are currently on your nightstand?
The stack on my nightstand is so tall that I can't give you the whole list.  It includes The Winter Family by Clifford Jackman, Bum Rap by Paul Levine, Not Even Past by Dave White, Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy, Summer of '42 by Herman Raucher, Comanche Trail by Ralph Compton (Carlton Stowers, in this case), 1980s Austin Gangsters by Jesse Sublett, The Mercy of the Night by David Corbett, and Sally of the Wasteland by Victor Gischler.  There might be a couple more, but I can't remember them right now.  I have a big nightstand.

Who is your favorite novelist of all time?
Favorite novelist of all time?  Impossible to say.  Way too many of them.

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
You probably wouldn't be surprised at anything on my shelves.  Cold Sassy Tree is there.  So is Gene Autry and the Redwood Pirates.  Are those surprising?

Who is your favorite fictional hero?
Favorite fictional hero?  As with the favorite novelist, too many to name, starting with Odysseus.

What book do you return to?
I return to a lot of books.  Catcher in the Rye is one of them.  Leaves of Grass.  Some of Shakespeare.  The continuing them of "too many to name" fits here, too.

Bio: There's  not a lot to say.  I've lived an ordinary life. Born in Mexia (Mah-HAY-uh), Texas. Currently living in Alvin, Texas.  Taught in high school and college for many years, now retired.  Have written a lot of books, including those in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series.  Married for 49 years to the lovely Judy, whose death in 2014 I still mourn.  I have two great kids, Angela, an attorney and writer, and Allen, a musician.  I collect old paperbacks and have way too many of them.