Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tuesday's Forgotten Movie: THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK

Last week we went to Stratford, Ontario where we saw HAMLET, CAROUSEL and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. Which of course called to mind the 1959 film. It starred Millie Perkins, Shelly Winters, Joseph Schilakraut, Diane Baker and Richard Beymer and was a very respectful version of the Diary as directed by George Stevens..

As this was a very respectful version of the play.

I would like to think an updated version might seems less dated, but I fear the work is so iconic that no one can really touch it. It is probably the most powerful book I read as a child and perhaps even as an adult.

Did Anne's death two weeks before the camp's liberation do more to illustrate the horrors of the Nazis than her survival would have? Would the book have been published if she had lived? Would we treat it with such reverence? I hope so. What are your thoughts? Can the play be updated or is it untouchable? Could it be set in one of the many places where people must hide from horrific regimes?

Here is a scene from the Stratford production.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Anthony Ambrogio's Bookshelf

What books are currently on your nightstand?
The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogio, a historical account of a nineteenth-century convent scandal (which I bought partly for the title but which I’m having a hard time slogging through) and The Golden Apples of the Sun, a Ray Bradbury anthology—the original paperback that I purchased for 40 cents back in 1961.

Who is your all-time favorite novelist?
Who indeed? Of Mice and Men is one of my all-time favorite novels, but I don’t know that Steinbeck is my all-time favorite novelist. I admire Faulkner’s style (over someone like, say, Hemingway), and I’ve certainly read most of his work (As I Lay Dying multiple times), but I don’t know if he’s my favorite novelist, either. I used to read everything that Kurt Vonnegut wrote, but I’m not as enamored of him as I used to be. My wife just reminded me about Virginia Woolf, an author whose entire novelist canon I’ve read and enjoyed (especially To the Lighthouse).

What book might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Three Comrades by Eric Maria Remarque because it is essentially and mostly a romance (as in “love story”), something I don’t usually gravitate toward. (But I saw and loved the 1938 movie—co-scripted by F. Scott Fitzgerald—when I was about 12 and had to get/read the book.)

Who is your favorite fictional character?
I struggled with this one and could come up with no satisfactory answer. I was thinking Odysseus, the original hero on a journey, but not all of his qualities are admirable. Ditto Yossarian in Catch-22. I suppose I must have one, but I don’t know who s/he is.
What book do you return to?
Already mentioned Of Mice and Men and As I Lay Dying above. Maybe Stephen King’s It, Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine—or Nightmares and Geezenstacks, a horror anthology of short stories by Fredric Brown (the first and greatest practitioner of what is now called “flash fiction”).
 Bio: Anthony Ambrogio, 66, life-long resident of Detroit (and environs) until January 2015, when we moved to Cape Cod. Major claim to fame: Married to poet-novelist Anca Vlasopolos; two daughters. Minor claim to fame: numerous articles and reviews in periodicals like Midnight Marquee, Monsters from the Vault, and Video Watchdog. Strives for fiction-publication credits but so far has only a very few short stories to show for it. (Photo attached.)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Lesson of the Five Lillys

appears in DEEP SOUTH MAGAZINE. It is light and summery.

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, June 26, 2015

 TELL NO ONE, Harlan Coben

I wanted a fast-paced suspense novel for a recent trip and had never read one by Harlan Coben. I consulted lists and this one was near the top of every one. So despite having seen a French film version of TELL NO ONE, I picked it up. It did not disappoint except in several curious and informative ways. The book was written in 2001 and it leaned heavily on the ways computers were used and worked in that era. Because most of this is dated now, it took me out of the story several times. I am not sure if there is an equivalent technology that seemed so dated a few years later. In other words, if people talked about listening to the radio in a book written in 1930, it would not occupy so much space and it would not bring the story to a halt if read today.

So a good lesson here: do not base your story too much on current technology. Putting this aside, this was a pretty good thriller although there was no real attempt to have any character development or attention to setting. It was plot, plot, plot.

Beck, a pediatrician, and his wife, Elizabeth,  have been together since childhood and have developed many rituals to celebrate aspects of that love. On one such celebration, the wife disappears. A serial killer is tried and convicted and eight years pass.

Suddenly, Beck receives a message that seems to be from his wife that says, "TELL NO ONE" at the end. Various forces come into play: cops, villains, the wife's family, Beck's family as this is all sorted out.

Clearly Coben has a gift for keeping the reader engaged. He knows how to twist the plot. His characters are likable, violence is mostly offstage. He is able to juggle a lot of plot strains pretty efficiently. A good summer read but not a book that will send me back to the shelves. 

Mark Baker, THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME, Krista Davis
Joe Barone, SWEET, SAVAGE DEATH, Jane Haddam
Les Blatt, DEATH IN ECSTASY, Ngaio Marsh
Elgin Bleecker, SOLDIER IN THE RAIN, William Goldman
Brian Busby, THE EMPIRE BUILDERS, Robert Steed
Martin Edwards, ELEVEN, Patricia Highsmith
Curt Evans, KILL A BETTER MOUSETRAP Scott Ratner
Ed Gorman, THE PLASTIC NIGHTMARE, Richard Neely
John Hegenberger, THE PROTEUS OPERATION, James Brogan
Rick Horton, A LOST LADY, Willa Cather
Jerry House: GREAT BALLS OF FIRE,  Harry Harrison
Randy Johnson, THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY, Charles Willeford
George Kelley, THE GOLDEN AGE OF MURDER, edited by Martin Edwards
Margot Kinberg, SIMON SAID, Sarah Shaber
Rob Kitchin, THE LONG HOME, William Gay; THE INTERROGATOR, Andrew Williams
B.V. Lawson, PICTURE MISS SEATON,  Heron Carvic
Evan Lewis, THE CONAN TRILOGY, Andrew J. Offutts
Todd Mason, MIMOSA, Nicki and  Rick Lynch
Steve Lewis/Dan Stumpf, SOME CAME RUNNING, James Jones
Gerard Saylor, THE FARM, Tom Robb Smith
James Reasoner, TURN ON THE HEAT, A.A. Fair
Richard Robinson, WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE MURDER, Bill Crider
Kevin Tipples. BURN, Jonathan Lyons
TracyK, HOPE, Len Deighton

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Libby Fisher Hellman's Bookshelf

What books are currently on your nightstand?

Only a few… let’s see:

n  A memoir of a woman in the WACs during WW2 and posted to Europe: “Molly’s War”
n  The Swimmer
n  A God in Ruins
n  All The Light We Cannot See
n  The Guns of August
n  And The Mountains Echoed
n  The Secrets of Bletchley Park

Who is your all-time favorite novelist?

For all his “oeuvre” – probably James Cain
For one novel: Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

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

The King James version of the Bible

Who is your favorite fictional character?

It changes often, but right now I’m torn between Lisbeth Salander and Scarlett O’Hara – actually, maybe they’re not so different after all…

What book do you return to?

I really don’t return to books once I’ve read them.


My next release, which should be toward the end of June, is a historical novella called The Incidental Spy. It’s about a German refugee who is forced to spy on the Manhattan Project during its early years at the U. of Chicago. It will be out in ebook on Stark Raving Press and also in print, at all the usual suspects.

Deb's Bookshelf

What books are currently on your nightstand?
I’m reading Sebastien Japrisot’s Women in Evidence, a man’s life written in the voices of eight different women.  I’m also reading Intimate Lies: The Story of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham written by Graham’s son, Robert Westbrook.  (It’s the book I’m reading above.)  I got interested in this book after reading Stewart O’Nan’s West of Sunset, a fictionalization of the last few years of Fitzgerald’s life when he worked in Hollywood and was involved with Graham.
Who is your favorite novelist of all times?
I couldn’t narrow it down to more than about five and I’m all over the map:  Henry James, Anthony Trollope, Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, Barbara Pym, and (of course) Agatha Christie.  But ask me tomorrow and my answers might be completely different.
What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Probably former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Never Again and Sarah Palin’s America by Heart.  Full disclosure:  These were gag gifts from my husband.  He annotated them—heavily and hilariously—before he gave them to me.  (I made it through Never Again, but there’s not enough snarky commentary in the world to help me make it past page 37 of Palin’s word salad of a book.)
Who is your favorite fictional hero?
I gravitate toward self-aware yet self-effacing heroines:  Elizabeth Bennett in Pride & Prejudice, Elinor Dashwood in Sense & Sensibility, Mildred Lathbury in Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women (in fact, almost all of Pym’s main female characters), Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables, any number of Agatha Christie’s spunky and bright young things like Tuppence Beresford.
What book do you return to?
I find myself rereading Daphne du Maurier’s The Parasites at least once every couple of years.  It’s the story of three siblings in continental Europe between the wars and in England after the war, and it has a very complex narrative structure (all three seem to narrate simultaneously).  It was the first book for which I wrote an FFB review.  I’m sorry du Maurier has fallen so out of favor and, other than Rebecca, is not read much these days.
I’m married with three children.  After 20 years in the corporate world as a technical writer, I became a stay-at-home mom for a few years.  Then, over a decade ago, I returned to work as an aide in the public schools.  I currently work in a special ed classroom with severely-autistic students.  It’s a challenging job, but very rewarding.  I love to read across all genres, but mysteries are my favorite.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

 I watched THE STATION AGENT again yesterday as I ironed my way into oblivion. And, I thought, I must have posted about that one before. And here is is from 2013. I swear Peter Drinkage doesn't look a day older.


 My Ten Favorite Quirky Forgotten Movies(from the archives)

1980-Gloria, directed by John Cassavetes, starring Gene Rowlands-A mobster's widow protects a orphaned boy. Love this one.

1994 Shallow Graves-directed by Danny Boyle, Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, Ian McGregor, three roommates need a fourth and don't bargain for what they get.

1977-Three Woman-directed by Robert Altman. Sissy Spacek, Shelly Duval, Janice Rule-Three women exchange personas as they forge a family.

1981-Cutter's Way-directed by Ivan Passer-great novel and movie. Jeff Bridges and John Heard. Bridges witnesses a murder and goes after the killer.

1996-Hard Eight, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, A newly minted gambler runs afoul of a femme fatale

1996 Day Trippers-directed by Greg Mottola -A family takes a road trip into the city when a rogue love letter falls into a wife's hands.

2009 Cairo Time. directed by Ruba Madda Patricial Clarkson plays a woman alone in Cairo who has a whirlwind romance.

2003 The Station Agent, directed by Thomas McCarthy-Patricia Clarkson, Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannevale- Three lonely people connect.

2007 Lars and the Real Girl-Directed by Craug Gillespie. Ryan Gosling. A young man cannot be dissuaded from his love for a blowup doll.

1974-CockFighter-directed by Monte Hellman-Warren Oates, Harry Dean Stanton-a man years to be the world's greatest cock fighter.

Monday, June 22, 2015

CONCRETE ANGEL Faces the Page 69 Test


Thanks to Marshall Zeringue for inviting me to do this. I have read these for years and always enjoyed them. Luckily page 69 worked out well for my novel. 

Monday Night Music: SCHOOL IS OUT

James Reasoner's Bookshelf


What books are on your nightstand?

No books on my nightstand because I don't read in bed, but on the table next
to my recliner in the living room are a paperback copy of STRIKE OF THE
MOUNTAIN MAN by William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone, which I'm currently
reading, and my Kindle, where John Hegenberger's CROSS EXAMINATIONS and
Peter Brandvold's ONCE MORE INTO THE BREECH are at the top of the digital

Who is your all-time favorite novelist?

All-time favorite novelist is really tough. If I have to pick one...Dashiell
Hammett. Broaden that out to all-time favorite writer (because he wrote even
fewer novels than Hammett) and the answer is Robert E. Howard.

What book on your shelves might surprise us?

Book on my shelves that might be a surprise...also tough because people who
know me know that I read anything and everything. Maybe some romance novel
by Nora Roberts or Marsha Canham.

Who is your favorite fictional character?

Favorite fictional character...Conan the Cimmerian. With Benjamin J. Grimm a
close second.

What book do you return to?

 Book I return to...THE SUN ALSO RISES. I've read the whole thing four or
five times and assorted scenes many times. And I've ripped off--I mean, paid
homage to--the ending on numerous occasions. But the piece of fiction I
really return to is Irwin Shaw's short story "Main Currents of American
Thought", which I reread every year or two.

Well, I've managed to weasel out of a definitive answer on almost
everything, haven't I?

A lifelong Texan, James Reasoner has been a professional writer for nearly forty years.  In that time, he has authored several hundred novels and short stories in numerous genres. Writing under his own name and various pseudonyms, his novels have garnered praise from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as appearing on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. Recently, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Western Fictioneers.  He lives in a small town in Texas with his wife, award-winning fellow author Livia J. Washburn. His blog can be found at http://jamesreasoner.blogspot.com .

Megan interviews me on THE LIFE SENTENCE.  
And here I am again on MICHIGANDER MONDAY. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jeff Myerson's Bookshelf

Literally on my nightstand?  None.  I never read in bed,.  But here are a few of the library books on the shelf behind me in the den:  SIX AND A HALF DEADLY SINS by Colin Cotterill (Dr. Siri Paiboun); TRIGGER WARNING by Neil Gaiman (halfway through these stories); BLOOD SWEEP by Steven F. Havill (Posadas County, New Mexico); SLOW HORSES by Mick Herron; AFTER THIS by Alice McDermott; THIEVES FALL OUT by Gore Vidal (as "Cameron Kay"); A HAND REACHED DOWN TO GUIDE ME: Stories and a Novella by David Gates (I really liked his previous books).

And some of my own books: GAME OF MIRRORS by Andrea Camilleri (Insp. Salvo Montalbano); SONS OF SPARTA by Jeffrey Siger (Ch. Insp. Andreas Kaldis); DEATH HAS AN ESCORT by Roger Torrey (pulp reprints); PLAGUE SHIP and POSTMARKED THE STARS by Andre Norton (Solar Queen series), among many, many others.
Who is your all-time favorite novelist?
Now this one is impossible for me.  I could probably narrow it down to 25 or 10 but never one.  And there are different authors in different categories (and on different days).  A few I would definitely include (and I'd read anything they'd written, even the less good stuff) are  Dashiell Hammett, Evan Hunter/Ed McBain, Donald Westlake and Elmore Leonard,   Among current mystery writers I always look forward to (a very long list) are Michael Connelly, Bill Crider, Bill Pronzini, Marcia Muller, Margaret Maron, Andrea Camilleri, Lawrence Block, Peter Robinson, Archer Mayor, Colin Cotterill, John Harvey, Joe R. Lansdale, James Sallis and Lee Child, but believe me, this only scratches the obvious surface.
**I've been reading at least one short story a day for close to 20 years now (you can do the math) and would add Chekhov and John O'Hara to my favorites list.  Among current mystery writers I would read any short story by Brendan DuBois, Ed Gorman, Doug Allyn, Clark Howard or Terence Faherty, and the late Edward D. Hoch was a favorite.
What book might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Good question.  I have very eclectic taste so nothing should surprise you, but how about Leon Edel's five volume biography of Henry James or the DIARY AND AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JOHN ADAMS or Trollope's Parliamentary/Palliser novels the SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME volumes?  Then there are hundreds of romantic suspense and paranormal romance novels, but those belong to my wife Jackie.
Who is your favorite fictional character?
It would be tough to top Holmes & Watson but I also like Salvo Montalbano, Andy Dalziel, Abel Jones (in Owen Parry's Civil War series), Dr. Siri Paiboun, Harry Bosch, Harry Flashman (in Fraser's series), Parker (the Richard Stark series), Jack Reacher, Matt Helm and Walt Longmire.
What book do you return to?
I have so many hundreds of books waiting to be read that I rarely reread, but when I do it will probably be a favorite like TIME AND AGAIN (Jack Finney) or NEVERWHERE (Neil Gaiman) or THE STAND (Stephen King - yes, I read it twice).  There are plenty of favorite series that I have on my shelves to reread someday, like Sjowall & Wahloo's Martin Beck series, or McBain's 87th Precinct or Westlake/Stark's Parker or Frank McAuliffe's Augustus Mandrell books.
Bio?  For a long time I sold secondhand mystery books.  We'd travel to Britain every summer and scour the land for books, which I'd ship home and sell by mail order during the year.  I also had a mystery fanzine (The Poisoned Pen) which I self-published in the pre-computer days (late 1970s and the 1980s), and was a member of DAPA-EM (along with such luminaries as Bill Crider, George Kelley and Rick Robinson) for many years.  My wife Jackie was a teacher and school administrator for 34 years.  We're retired.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

First Wednesday Book Review Club (third Wednesday this month)

Where the idea for CONCRETE ANGEL came from. 
And a review from Randy Johnson.

This is one of Simenon’s standalones, which I generally prefer to the more formulaic Maigrets. A French family lives comfortably, if claustrophobically, outside of town. The first person narrator is twenty-one and works at the local hospital as a research assistant. She’s having a rather prosaic affair with her employer, an older scientist. Her younger brother is taking classes at the local college, majoring in chemistry. 

The two siblings live with their parents in a state of constant tension. The mother is an alcoholic, and goes on binges that the rest of the family calls ‘novenas’. Her behavior seems to date from the beginning of her marriage and has almost a formal structure to it. The tension of her behavior is palpable throughout the story.

A newly hired maid, a sexually obliging sort of girl, Manuela, from Spain, brings some needed air into this hothouse. Both father and son begin sleeping with her. Neither is satisfied with this arrangement.

When Manuela disappears. it is unclear what has happened and the ambiguity will either intrigue or annoy you. The ending is surprising, yet fitting. This was not my favorite Simenon and yet it succeeded in keeping my interest. Short novels stand a better chance of doing that.

For more review, visit Barrie Summy's place. (Where I think CONCRETE ANGEL may have a review)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Graduation Day, June 1965

                         Middle of first row, head off to side. As usual at that age, I took nothing seriously.

What TV Show Do (or Did) You know is Good and Yet...

you just don't like it. For me it is VEEP. Darn, I know the writing is top-notch, insightful, sharp, funny and yet I just fade out when this show comes on. I think it's because it dislikes all of its characters. It wears its cynicism on its sleeve. And the dialog seems the same from one character to another. And its also too similar from week to week. Yes Selena Meyers is a new character for TV-a woman who is both smart and incredibly foolish at the same time. And JLD is her usual funny, attractive self but darn, I just can't get on-board. The thought of such a wretched woman running the country--argh!

Having said that though, I am going to rewatch it with CC on. Sometimes I think it's speed defeats me.

What show now or in the past, that you knew was good, didn't attract you? 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Fifty Years Ago

I met Phil 50 years ago this month in New Hope, PA, his hometown. I had just graduated from high school, he was going into his senior year in college at American University. Here we are at the zoo in Philly.

And when I think of the songs playing just then, this one always sticks in my mind. It may not be the greatest song of 1965 but it sort of summed things up for us.

What song reminds you of the time you met?

Anca Vlasopolos' Bookshelf

What book is on your nightstand?

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar

Who is your favorite novelist?

Virginia Woolf

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

The bible?

Who is your favorite fiction character?


What book do you return most often to? 

Jane Austen's novels--all of them, alas, so few.

 Anca Vlasopolos has published a detective novel, a memoir, various short stories, over 200 poems, the poetry collections Penguins in a Warming World and Walking Toward Solstice, and the non-fiction novel The New Bedford Samurai.
She was born in 1948 in Bucharest, Rumania. Her father, a political prisoner of the Communist regime in Rumania, died when Anca was eight. After a sojourn in Paris and Brussels, at fourteen she immigrated to the United States with her mother, a prominent Rumanian intellectual and a survivor of Auschwitz. Anca is Professor Emerita of Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, where she taught English and Comparative Literature for 39 years. She is married to Anthony Ambrogio, a writer and editor. They have two grown daughters, who are making their own way in the world. You can read one’s blog, about beasts in a populous city.


And my blog tour continues at Elizabeth Spann Craig's blog. WORKING MY WAY TO A NOVEL 
And at WOMEN OF MYSTERY where I talk about a sense of place.