Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How I Came to Write: Li'l Tom and the Pussyfoot Detective Bureau

How I came to write Li'l Tom and the Pussyfoot Detective Bureau:  The Case of the Parrots Desaparecidos
                                                          by Angela Crider Neary

My first novella, Li'l Tom and the Pussyfoot Detective Bureau:  The a Case of the Parrots Desaparecidos, is a cat detective mystery set in the streets of San Francisco.  Li’l Tom fancies himself to be the Sam Spade of cats and prides himself on always getting his man.  He was the runt of his litter, so this may sometimes hinder his investigations but he strives to use his size to his advantage.  Li'l Tom is by no means perfect, however, and sometimes finds himself drowning his sorrows at the milk bar or over-imbibing in catnip tea, not to mention jealously vying with a hulking, muscular witness in his case for the affections of his Calico crush.  When some of the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill disappear, Li’l Tom is hired to take the case.  With the help of his lovely sidekick Calico cat, a homeless rat, and an unbalanced Chiweenie dog, he sets out to rescue the exotic parrots.  But will they get there before it’s too late?

So what inspired me to write a book about a cat detective?  I grew up reading mystery and detective stories, most likely starting with Nancy Drew, as many girls do, so that explains some of it.  I am also an ardent cat enthusiast (okay, fanatic), so that is another part of it.  But the main catalyst was my interest in stories where the setting, usually a city, is so mysterious or compelling that it almost becomes one of the characters in the stories.  I feel that San Francisco, with its iconic landmarks and its history in the Gold Rush, the Barbary Coast, the Summer of Love, the Beat Generation, and arts and literature is one of those places.

My husband and I moved to San Francisco in 2008, and a couple of our favorite places to explore in the city became the North Beach and Telegraph Hill areas.  Telegraph Hill has about 400 steep steps leading up to the top where Coit Tower is nestled.  Every once in a while, we would make the trek over these steps from the Embarcadero side over onto the North Beach side.  It’s kind of like walking through an urban rain forest with all the flowers, plants, and trees.  In all the foliage and nooks and crannies of the houses that are built up the side of the hill, we would often see cats hidden away and watching us.  For some reason, that’s the only place in the city we would see cats - maybe they stay inside in most areas of the city.  At the same time, I became fascinated with the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill.  These red-crowned conures have been in the city for decades and are said to have evolved from pet parrots, originally from South America, who escaped.  When I go to work at my day job, I walk by trees where the parrots sleep.  I start work early at around 7:30 a.m., and the parrots are just waking up and beginning their cacophonous squawking.  This is one of the things I love most about San Francisco.  Out of these experiences, Li'l Tom, cat sleuth, was born.  The story incorporates many of my favorite things about San Francisco, so it is meant to be enjoyed by lovers of animals and of San Francisco, alike.

To learn more about Li'l Tom and Angela Crider Neary, visit them on Facebook: or Amazon:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Goodbye, Patty!

Forgotten TV: COLUMBO: Etude in Black

My favorite episode of COLUMBO was from Season 2, the first episode: ETUDE IN BLACK.
John Cassavetes plays a conductor having an affair with a pianist. When the woman threatens to expose it, he needs to get rid of her to keep his wealthy wife (Blythe Danner) and her family supporting him.Cassvetes made a great villain as we found out a few years earlier in ROSEMARY'S BABY. He died too young.

What is your favorite episode? 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Brothers in Fiction

Although they are referred to as "cousins" the two scary guys in BREAKING BAD and now BETTER CALL SAUL are actually brothers. In real life and on the show.

Other than the Hardy Boys and the Holmes' brothers, are there other sets of brothers in crime fiction? Or is it sisters that seem more dominant?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Friday Night MusicL Lorde

Friday's Forgotten Books, March 25, 2016


This is quintessential noir detailing a doomed relationship. That the two lovers happen to be petty criminals heightens the tension.You can find a far more comprehensive review of it on Kirkus by our friend, J. Kinsgston Pierce. There are many other looks at it online as well.

Tim Sunblade escapes from jail and is soon also free from his time working on an oil rig. Not too much time passes before he meets his femme fatale, Virginia.

                                "She's a looker , ain't she, bub."
                                 I said she was a looker.

Tim has figured out a way to score big and Virginia plays her part. But the meat of the book is what happens afterward. How mistrust and the sins they've committed haunt the lovers when they are not haunting each other.

A Gold Medal books from 1953, BLACK WINGS should be as familiar to us as DOUBLE INDEMNITY, POSTMAN or other books from that era (Goodis, Himes, Thompson). And yet it has gone out of print several times.

The writing is perfect, the relationship works because it doesn't work. It doesn't get much better than this.

Sergio Angelini, TO WAKE THE DEAD, John Dickson Carr
Joe Barone, THIS THING OF DARKNESS, Harry Bingham
Les Blatt, CALAMITY IN KENT, John Rowland
Bill Crider, BLACK MONEY, Ross Macdonald
Scott Cupp, THE DRAWING OF THE DARK, Tim Powers
Martin Edwards, AND BEING DEAD, Margaret Erskine
Curt Evans, THE CHINESE PUZZLE, Miles Burton
Ed Gorman, HIS NAME WAS DEATH, Fredric Brown
Rick Horton, PARTY GOING, Henry Green
Nick Jones, ASHENDEN, W. Somerset Maugham
George Kelley, THE SCIENCE FICTION CENTURY, David Hartwell
Margot Kinberg, KINJU, Laura Joh Rowland
Rob Kitchin, THE FIRE ENGINE THAT DISAPPEARED, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
Steve Lewis, THE GOLD GAP, Frank Grueber
Todd Mason, HARRY HARRISON! HARRY HARRISON!: A MEMOIR by Harry Harrison (Tor 2014); DAVID G. HARTWELL: IN MEMORIAM edited by Kevin J. Maroney, Kris Dikeman and Avram Grumer (NY Review of Science Fiction/ICFA 2016)
J.F. Norris, BREATHE NO MORE, Marion Randolph
Matt Paust. THE MOLESKIN CHECKLIST, Jeffrey Scott Holland
Reactions to Reading, A KILLER COLLECTION, Ellery Adams
James Reasoner, RAWHIDE RANGE,  Ernest Haycox
Richard Robinson, FUNNY MONEY, James Swain
Gerard Saylor, THE HONORED SOCIETY, Petra Reska
Kerrie Smith, MAIGRET IN NEW YORK, George Simenon
Kevin Tipple, A KNIFE IN THE BACK, Bill Crider
The Rap Sheet/Steven Nester, THE BLACK AND THE RED, Elliot Paul
Westlake Review, HIGH ADVENTURE, Part 2
Zybahn, ACADEMY MYSTERY NOVELLAS, Greenberg and Pronzini

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sleepwalk: Santo and Johnny

Everything about this worked on AMC's BETTER CALL SAUL, (especially the brother aspect)

(I think the version used on the show is a new one however by Junior Brown).

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What Constitutes a Classic in Crime Fiction?

Someone said on a post last week that perhaps Elmore Leonard was not really a classic mystery writer. Is it Golden Age writers that wear that hat?

How would you define "classic?" Is it an age thing? Is it a style thing? Is it the number of books sold thing? Is it a longevity thing? Is it " in the eye of the beholder"  thing?

What makes a book a classic? (To me Elmore Leonard would qualify.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

West Wing: The Cathedral

“Two Cathedrals”
The second season finale is probably one of the best episodes of television and the best to my mind of WEST WING.
The world now knows about President's Bartlet’s MS, but he’s not worried about that. Instead, he’s focused on the death of his secretary, Mrs. Landingham (Kathryn Joosten), who we see, through flashbacks, as his father’s secretary at boarding school. She’s the one who taught him how to argue, how to fight for what he believes in. She's a trusted ally in a place where they are few. She's his conduit into the needs of the people. Someone who is not a beltway voice.
Bartlet’s speech in the church, following Mrs. Landingham’s funeral,show features some of Aaron Sorkin’s best writing. It humanizes the President, the show and the writer.

Monday, March 21, 2016


(from experiences in the D)
Red Bull House of Art

The Red Bull House of Art isn’t your typical art gallery. It’s actually a residency program for local artists, one that develops their skills and showcases their abilities in a collaborative and inspirational environment — and it’s the only gallery of its kind in the United States.

The concept began in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2010 and entered the Detroit scene in May 2012, when Red Bull House of Art transformed a raw warehouse space in historic Eastern Market into a hive of creativity, much like other transformed spaces in Detroit.
Tweet: The @redbullHOA helps artists unleash their utmost creative side to the world. via @visitdetroit
The gallery and residency program is based on the idea that removing financial and institutional constraints and presenting artists with the tools and space necessary helps them unleash their utmost creative side to the world.

As part of the project, House of Art provides its artists with all the materials they may need. They have 24-hour studio access for three months, followed by a three-month exhibition, which are called cycles, in the adjoined gallery space.

This year, it takes on new format. National artists will work alongside local Detroit artists to bring a truly national art stage to the Motor City, complete with lecture series, curated exhibits and additional community programming.

Cycle unveilings are free and open to the public of all ages. In between cycles, the gallery, located at 1551 W. Winder St. in Detroit, is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and hosts a variety of community-focused events.

Keep up with Red Bull House of Art happenings and artists on Facebook and Instagram.

Friday, March 18, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane Reviewed

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, March 18, 2016

BRAZZAVILLE BEACH, William Boyd (reviewed by Nigel Bird)

Brazzaville Beach is a tremendous novel.
Right from the beginning it has the feel of something rather unusual and for me there was a definite double-take moment when I realized I’d found my place.
It’s centred around 2 main aspects of Hope Clearwater’s life, her time with her husband in the UK and her time without in Africa.
The drive of the plot centres around Hope’s work observing chimpanzees in the world’s leading scientific project on the subject of the animals. She’s cottoned on to the fact that strange things are happening within her community of chimps that have taken themselves away from the main group. The chimps from the north are sending patrols into the southern territories and this is the cause for a lot of interest. Unfortunately for her, the more she finds out, the more she realises that her discoveries are contrary to the theories of her eminent bosses and it seems that they’ll go to any length to suppress her findings.
Weaving in and out of this African scene is her background and her relationship with her very driven husband who is a gifted mathematician. He’s obsessed by seeing things in different ways and interprets things with numbers and visual patterns. It’s a background that helps to explain Hope’s current situation and thinking, while providing a hugely interesting story in itself.
There’s plenty of what I’ve come to expect from William Boyd in here:
It’s quite addictive, which is often the case for me when reading his books.
There’s the wonderful detail in the characters and settings, and he’s a bit like Hope’s husband in the way he can present what is commonplace in new ways that make it a pleasure to get to know people and place.
There are the asides that show a tremendous knowledge in a vast range of areas (or at least they seem to) that are interesting in themselves, but are also very relevant and helpful as part of a gentle analysis.
There’s the African setting, clearly understood and alive with the exotic.
I loved it. I feel like I’ve had a good workout and a huge amount of entertainment.
The sad thing is, I was reading a signed, hard-back, 1990 first edition and it’s borrowed from a friend. I’d so like to keep it on my shelves and have considered a few ways of explaining its loss (the cat ate it and the like), but it never worked on my teachers and I don’t suppose my conscience could take it these days.
A super story that you should check out.

Sergio Angelini, POST MORTEM, Kate London
Mark Baker, MRS. POLIFAX AND THE LION KILLER, Dorothy Gilman
Joe Barone, LONG SON, Peter Bowen
Les Blatt, MISSING OR MURDERED, Robin Forsythe
Elgin Bleeker, DOG EAT DOG, Edward Bunker
Brian Busby, DO EVIL IN RETURN, Margaret Millar
Bill Crider, WONDROUS BEGINNINGS, Steven H. Silver and Martin Greenberg
Scott Cupp, THE CAVES OF KARST, Lee Hoffman
Martin Edwards, THE HOUSE THAT KILLS, Noel Vindry
Rich Horton, THE GAMES OF NETH, Margaret St. Clair, THE EARTH GODS ARE COMING, Kenneth Bulmer
Jerry House, THE PRIMAL URGE, Brian Aldiss
Nick Jones, LET THE TIGER DIE, Manning Cole
George Kelley, THE HUMAN CHORD, THE CENTAUR, Algernon Blackwood
Rob Kitchin, A LIFE IN SECRETS, Sarah Helm
B.V. Lawson, I START COUNTING, Audrey Erskine Lindop
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, BOOKED FOR A HANGING, Bill Crider
J.F. Norris, THE MUMMY, Riccardo Stephens
Mathew Paust, THE HOMICIDAL SAINT, Axle Brand
Reactions to Reading, SATELLITE PEOPLE Hans Olav Lahlum
James Reasoner, DON OF THE BLACK SERAPE, Walt Coburn
Richard Robinson, CARNAL HOURS, Max Allan Collins
Kerrie Smith, A FATAL ERROR, Michael Ridpath
Kevin Tipple, ANTLER DUST, Mark Stevens
TracyK, A RED DEATH, Walter Mosley
A.J. Wright, Alabama Book Covers

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I Love to Love

Stolen from J.Kingston Pierce

This is one of the topics on Jeff's lists on KIRKUS REVIEW and THE RAP SHEET yesterday. Take a look at the rest if you haven't already. 

5 Classic Authors (in crime fiction) Whose Work I Should Have Read, But Have Not

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Chester Himes
Ellery Queen
Erle Stanley Gardner
Mary Roberts Rinehart

What are your gaps? 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mystery Scene-Thank you.


Margaret O'Brien is my favorite child actor. She could really nail those hyper-emotional scenes and this movie is full of them. Margaret plays a child at a dance school whose infatuation and strange anger management issues lead her to injure a ballerina (Cyd Charisse) who comes to the school to dance in a recital. A little like BLACK SWAN, this is a pretty scary film. Although apparently the French version goes even further in portraying a possible sociopath in the making. O'Brien does all her own dancing and had been studying dance since age two. An interesting and rarely shown film. It does sound like a Megan Abbott novel, doesn't it?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Tell Him


One of the cool things going on in Detroit is Slow Roll Detroit, which takes place every Monday night in the less than zero months.(first 2016 one is scheduled for the end of April) Enormous groups of bike riders (sometimes up to 3000) make various excursions through Detroit, with different treks planned each week. Along the way, the riders, and they are all ages, talk about Detroit and what issues they might become involved in. This is about community. For more information, go here.

Do you have anything like this where you live?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday Night Music

Friday's Forgotten Books, March 11, 2016

  A Diet of Treacle by Lawrence Block (reviewed by Ed Gorman

Back in the late Fifties and early Sixties paperback original novels about the Beat generation appeared regularly. Sex, drugs, jazz, weirdness. Today few of them bear rereading. Certainly Vin Packer's take on the subject holds up very well but some of the bigger names who took a tour through Kerouac-land ended up looking and sounding silly. They were writing tour guides without having ever been there.

A Diet of Treacle by Lawrence Block on the other hand has the feel of first-hand observation. Set in Greenwich Village in 1960, peopled by faux-beat losers of various kind and a cop out of Malcolm Braly, the drug scene, the crime scene and the scene of hardscrabble drifting life in the big bad city crackles with authenticity.

There are three prime players. Joe is a cipher of sort, not a good guy or a bad guy, one of those people who just sort of take up space. His friend Shank, an angry street hustler, supports them both by selling pot. The third person, and by far the most interesting, is Anita, a young, attractive woman engaged to a square engineer while still living under the auspices of an overly pious grandmother.

When the main heroin dealer in the area is busted, Shank decides to quit selling pot and go into the junk business, at first unbeknownst to Anita and Joe, with whom he is sharing a shabby little apartment.

The transformation of Anita from the good girl to the lover of a drifter like Joe to somebody inadvertently involved in murder is what gives the book its power. Block is too good a writer to try to explain away her changes with melodramatic motivations. She remains somewhat mysterious throughout the book, both to the reader and to herself. At one point, even though she considers marrying Joe, she wonders if she even loves him. At another, she begins to feel oppressed by his lifestyle of hanging out in beat dives (Block has a beat poet read a "poem" that manages to be both short and interminable) and letting Shank dictate much of his life.

Block is always good with his female characters and Anita, sweet, warm, confused, ultimately as adrift as Joe himself, is a fine, endearing creation.

The party scenes are spot on. Cheap wine, portentous and pretentious conversations, sex sex sex and unending tributes to the powers of pot. Everybody yakking so much about how good pot makes them feel it starts sounding like a revival meeting with hemp substituting for God. Very wittily observed.

The plot kicks in full tilt in the the third act and it's breathtaking. The hard ass cop, whom we meet early on, reappears and what had been minor cat-and-mouse becomes explosive confrontation.

Of all the hard-boiled writers working today, Block for me remains the most believable in dealing with crime and criminals. He's able to write about them and their milieu without tricking them up or romanticizing them. And, as he demonstrates here, he was doing it as far back as 1961.

DIE DREAMING, Terence Faherty (reviewed by Jared Case)

Owen Keane is the perfect example of a character that illuminates the prosaic by highlighting the idiosyncratic. His background is like no other: On a religious retreat between his junior and senior years in high school he came across a boy who claimed he could talk to God. When this claim was proven a deceit, his faiths were shaken: his faith in God, his faith in Man, and his faith in The Truth. This event was never far from him, and his crises of faith were internalized, affecting his belief in God, his belief in himself, and his belief in his ability to find the truth. Hoping to tackle all of these crises simultaneously, he abandoned Mary, the woman who would be the love of his life, and entered the seminary. When his failure at the seminary coincided with Mary’s abandonment of him for his college roommate, Harold Ohlman, Owen began to wander, doing odd menial jobs, and ending up in a liquor store. In a fit of pique, he attended his tenth high school reunion under the guise of a private investigator, and Owen Keane, the amateur detective was born.
This backstory is specific enough to be unique, and yet the sum is the same for many of us. Our lives have been an accumulation of events that led us to question the world around us. And to this end, Owen Keane has many of the same investigative tools we all do. As a fan mystery fiction and mystery film, Owen has been indoctrinated into all the tropes and clich├ęs of the detective’s process. His experience is our experience as he references Dashiell Hammett, or Nero Wolfe, or Double Indemnity. This makes him acutely self-aware of his place in the genealogy of detective fiction, but the broad shoulders he stands on don’t prevent him from jumping to the wrong conclusion or following a lead because he hopes it to be true. His failings are our failings, even as his cynical, self-deprecating exterior belies an underlying belief in the goodness of men and women, and the belief that he will be able to effect positive change through the search for truth.
In fact, his currency is truth. Rarely does he get paid for his services, and even then it only covers expenses. But if he can uncover the truth, not necessarily for himself, and not even necessarily for the victim, it adds to a growing tapestry of truth, something that he can point to as a basis for a belief in his ability to find the truth, which supports a belief in himself and in mankind, which holds up the possibility of a belief in the existence and effectiveness of God, despite the fact that faith requires neither proof nor support. Yet this is what drives him to toil in the long shadows of Sam Spade, Nick Charles and Travis McGee.
DIE DREAMING, the fourth book in Terence Faherty’s “Owen Keane” series, is perhaps the best, taking this mystery-fan/faith-in-crisis context and grafting it onto a mystery story that inverts the mystery story expectation of beginning-middle-end. Owen Keane, 28 and feeling a bit of a failure, decides to play a self-deprecating joke on his high school classmates, The Sorrowers, by running an ad for the Owen Keane Detective Agency in the 10th reunion program. But one of The Sorrowers is a jokester herself and sets up a fake mystery to lure Owen into an embarrassing situation. Owen falls for the ruse, but is saved by another classmate. In the meantime, however, a true mystery surfaces when loose lips mention an event that was suppressed 10 years ago and that tied The Sorrowers together in a code of secrecy. Owen’s investigation stumbles along, following false leads and shaky assumptions, but his dogged determination does eventually reveal the truth. It also reveals that there are as many victims as perpetrators, and in the end Owen decides that the truth, now discovered, is sometimes better left buried.
This decision comes into question 10 years later when one of The Sorrowers turns up dead. Owen must come to terms with his responsibility in the death and determine whether the truth did come out, and if someone would kill to keep it hidden. His investigation takes him back to his hometown and his 20th high school reunion. He starts to look at The Sorrowers and the mysterious event that took place 20 years ago, but he has to take into account the changes that have taken place in the last 10 years, when the end of his last investigation became the beginning of this new crime. He discovers that relationships are even more complex than they appeared, and that crimes can have implications generations removed from the original event itself.
There is no better feeling than finding a piece of art that resonates with you, unless you get to share that discovery with someone else. Terence Faherty and Owen Keane were such a discovery for me, and I hope that, by sharing the discovery with you, they will pass from the realms of the forgotten.

Sergio Angelini, BONFIRE NIGHT, James Mitchell
Joe Barone.THE UNQUIET DEAD, Ausma Zehanat-Khan.
Les Blatt, THE LONG FAREWELL,  Michael Innes
Brian Busby, THE WINE OF LIFE, Arthur Stringer
Scott Cupp, THE EVERNESS SERIES, Ian McDonald
Martin Edwards, MYSTERY OF MR. JESSOP, E.R. Punshon
Curt Evans, THE YELLOW ROOM, Mary Roberts Rinehart
Charles Gramlich, CAP KENNEDY  #15, Gregory Kern
Rick Horton, THE VAN ROOM, J.C. Snaith
Jerry House, THE DAY THEY H-BOMBED LOS ANGELES, Robert Moore Williams
George Kelley, Novels by Fletcher Flora
Margot Kinberg, A PERFECT MATCH, Jill McGown
B.V. Lawson, AMBUSH FOR ANATOL, John Herman Mulso Sherwood
Steve Lewis, THE COFFIN BIRD, Carter Brown 
J. F. Norris, THE DARK TUNNEL, Kenneth Millar
Mathew Paust, DALTON TRUMBO, Bruce Cook 
James Reasoner, BLOODY HOOFS, J. Edward Leithead 
Richard Robinson, MURDER INK, Dilys Winn
Gerard Saylor, HE DIED WITH HIS EYES OPEN, Derek Raymond 
Kerrie Smith, ALL THE BIRDS, SINGING, Evie Wyld 
Kevin Tipple, UNDER INVESTIGATION, Jeffrey Marks 
R.T. SILENCE OF THE GRAVE, Arnaldur Indridsson
TomCat, THE POLO GROUND MYSTERY, Robin Forsythe 
TracyK, MINUTE FOR MURDER, Nicholas Blake 
Westlake Review, A LIKELY STORY, Donald Westlake 
Zybahn, THE CROCODILE, Vincent Eri

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


Flick your Bic

Cigarette Lighter

CIGARETTE LIGHTER, (written by Jack Pendarvis), is the subject of a book in the Bloomsbury's series called Object Lessons. If all of them are as clever as this one, I must read them. I am a bit doubtful "waste" or "dust" or "golf ball" can hold my interest as completely as this one did, but who knows. I am curious as to whether the publisher has rounded up all the best comic writers to write these little treatises. Perhaps most of them are serious  and disappointment awaits me because cigarette lighters speak to romance as you will see from the book's examples. 

Jack Pendarvis' book is as charming, comprehensive, and as comical as his stories (Your Body is Changing). Not only do we get a lot of useful information about cigarette lighters, we get a tour through their place in cinema and culture, a match-up (ha!) between the match and the cigarette lighter as masculine/feminine symbols, a discussion of lighters as collectible items, their place in history,  and the associated role of tobacco.

                                    Lighters are Jerry Bruckheimer. Matches are David Lynch
                                    A lighter is a threat. A match is a promise.

A few of my own cigarette lighter stories:

As Jack mentioned men that did not smoke during World War 2 were looked on as odd. My father did not smoke but adopted the habit of carrying a nifty lighter anyway. He could light my mother's cigarette and perhaps other women's as well. His was the smallest lighter I have ever seen because it had to jockey for room in his pocket with his enormous set of keys that fastened to a belt loop via a long gold chain. 

I was seventeen and staying at an older friend's apartment. Another friend and I were smoking long past the hour the owner has gone to bed. My friend, let's call her Merrie, had the only lighter. It was a chartreuse one I admired. But it was a bic, and as bics or Bics, were known to do, it ran out of fluid. For the rest of the nigh,t until dawn, in fact,, we lit our cigarettes from each other's. It was a night of intimacy never repeated. When dawn came, it suddenly became ridiculous and we put out a last cigarette and fell asleep. Could we have been so desperate about lighting up that this makes sense?

Both the ashtrays and the cigarette lighters in our house were gorgeous. We had a huge lighter on the coffee table and it occupied a pride of place. The task of filling it went to my father despite his being a non-smoker. It was almost ceremonial. I wonder if at the moment cigarettes were proven to be deadly, people threw such things away. They also seem to be gone or in the hands of collectors.

I chose one of my first boyfriends, Rick O'Brien because he could light a cigarette so beautifully. His Zippo never failed him. He even whipped it out of his pocket with panache. He worked in a service station, having dropped out of high school, and I liked to stand across the street at night and watch him light up.  When he picked me up at school in his souped up convertible, the first thing I did was put a cigarette in my mouth for him to light.We were in Grease before Grease.

Enough of my wayward youth.

 I highly recommend the book. Even if you never smoked (and I hope you didn't) it will bring back many movie memories and lots of great information. Terrific stuff.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Forgotten Movies: M*A*S*H

I was a bit disappointed in watching this a few weeks ago. Yes, I enjoyed seeing the familiar faces but it was almost more like a montage than a movie. I didn't really know the characters by the end. Sally Kellerman playing Hot Lips stood out for me. And Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland were fine if a bit underdeveloped.

I think Altman was so busy trying to create something new with overdubbing lines (or whatever you would call it) that we lost a bit. So all in all, I prefer the TV series. Yes, it did grow didactic over time but there are many great episodes.

My son always says look for the episodes before B.J. grows a mustache for the best scripts. I will.

What do you prefer? Movie or TV series?

Monday, March 07, 2016

What We Look for in a Novel.

"And yet, as readers, don’t we read fiction exactly to be upset?"

This is from a longer piece by Hanya Yanagihara (A LITTLE LIFE) in THE GUARDIAN. Her editor felt there were too many upsetting incidents in her novel. This is why (and also due to the length) I have put off reading A LITTLE LIFE despite its great reviews. Am I a coward? A lazy reader? Do I prefer books that don't "upset" me.

I think the most enduring books (like Bill's mention of SILAS MARNER and George's reading of it) will always have this element to some degree They will always make us uneasy.

Certainly we don't want every book we read to upset us, but if there is not some aspect of this in some or most of what we read, can our experience in reading the book have any real value? Can it be a lasting experience? I think many books classified as crime fiction do a better job of this than so-called literary fiction. They show rather than tell us about a social issue. Witness Winslow's THE CARTEL, Richard Price's work, the not very nice people in Patricia Highsmith. Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Laura Lippman, Sara Paretsky, Tana French, Tony Hillerman, Craig Johnson, Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell. These writers are able to entertain and inform in equal measure.They create flawed complex characters facing real life issues.

And at least some of the time this is what I want to read.

Thoughts?What was the last upsetting book you read?

Friday, March 04, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books: RUTH RENDELL WEEK

 I have probably read more books by Ruth Rendell than any other writer. For many years I read every one of her books as soon as it turned up at my library. In the early days, I could not reserve it and it usually took several trips to the library before it turned up. Along about the time she wrote ROAD RAGE and SIMISOLA, she took a turn into didacticism that didn't appeal to me and I stopped reading every book. But I still read ones that seemed less scolding.  And the movies made from them, mostly French, show just how strong a story-teller she was. She was a perfect writer for me because  her cottages were never sun-dappled, her characters never saccharine.
She had three types of books: the traditional mysteries featuring Inspector Wexford, tight little thrillers she wrote under her own name, and the Barbara Vines which were longer and more leisurely. All of them were mostly good. 
I am sure I have told my one Ruth Rendell story on here, but here it is again. We were living outside Manchester for a year (1994-95). We went into Waterstones to hear any author that appealed to us. We tend to do this a lot when we are away from home just for something to do.
She was a bit off-putting in the same way Pat Barker was. No one can quite beat the Brits at attitude, I think. Anyway a fan in the audience implied something in whatever book it was was off in terms of its location in Kingsmarkam, the fictional town her Wexford books were set it. 
"Sir," Rendell said, "I invented Kingsmarkam so I think I know where that pub is." It may not have been a pub and it was 20 years ago but you get the gist. And if ever a writer invented a place, Rendell did. Perhaps only Faulkner could give her a run for that.

Here are some words from Martin Edwards on Rendell's death last year.

This is the most recently published Ruth Rendell novel I have read and I was very anxious to read it. So although it is not forgotten, it is part of this week's theme

Two clasped hands, severed, are found in a cookie tin. It turns out they date from World War 2 and their story and the police investigation makes up the minor plot of this fine novel. What makes up the major part are the stories of the children who played in the place the tin was buried during the war. How they had fared in the intervening years. Unrequited and untold love compromises a lot of their story. How we often marry at a convenient time to the one around rather than following the heart.And when they all meet up because of the police investigation, their current lives are thrown into chaos, causing death, divorce, romance, reconciliation, etc.

What am amazing feat this was for a woman in her eighties. Keeping all the strands straight and breathing such life into her characters. I have read perhaps 65% of Rendell's enormous output and rarely been disappointed except when she veered into didacticism as she sometimes did. But not here, not at all.

Curt Evans, A Look at Rendell
Heslop's Cult Corner, THE BRIDESMAID
In Search of Classic Mysteries: many Ruth Rendell reviews here
Matthew Paust, NOT IN THE FLESH 
Richard Robinson, FROM DOON WITH DEATH
Kerrie Smith, MONSTER IN A BOX 
Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog, THE VEILED ONE

Other reviews
Brian Busby, THE MEASURE OF A MAN, Norman Duncan
Bill Crider, NEEDLE IN A TIMESTACK, Robert Silverburg
Scott Cupp, WEST TEXAS, Al Sarrantanio
Martin Edwards, DEADLINE, Martin Russell
Ed Gorman, THE INNOCENCE OF MRS. DUFF, Elizabeth Sanxay Holding
Rick Horton, THE MAN WHO GOT AWAY, Summer Locke Elliott
Nick Jones, Graham Greene 
Margot Kinberg, THE COLD, COLD GROUND, Adrian McKinty
Rob Kitchin, THE KILL, Jane Casey
Todd Mason,  THE INVESTIGATIONS OF AVRAM DAVIDSON: COLLECTED MYSTERIES edited by Grania Davis and Richard A. Lupoff
J.F. Norris, THE EMPTY HOUSE, Irina Karlova
Reactions to Reading, LAST RAGGED BREATH, Julia Keller
James Reasoner, POWDER SMOKE, William Colt Macdonald
Gerard Saylor, PERFIDIA, James Ellroy
Kerrie Smith, SMALLBONE DECEASED, Michael Gilbert
Prashant Trikannad, A GIFT OF LIFE, Henry Denker

Thursday, March 03, 2016


Thanks, MYSTERY SCENE. Just have to find a copy.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


One of my favorite movies and one of my favorite trailers. It actually lays the whole movie out. Is this a good idea? How much should you know about a movie ahead of time? Should they show the best scenes? What trailers were particularly good or particular bad.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Forgotten TV: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Naturally a big Seinfeld fan is going to like CURB too. This was my favorite episode. The description is not mine as the jet lag hasn't curbed.

(From Complex) 
Earlier we said it’s the rare Curb episode that manages to restrain Larry David’s attention span and introduce varying plot elements that assemble together beautifully and seamlessly in the climax. “The Doll” is one such treasure. Everything that precedes the final scene, from an annoyingly righteous theater attendant, to a latch-less bathroom door, and of course, the doll, plays a part in creating the horrific, hilarious but also horrible, how-is-he-going-to-explain-this situation that Larry finds himself in during the final minutes. Nothing is extraneous, making “The Doll” a textbook example of tight sitcom writing, and as only the seventeenth episode of the series, solidfying Curb

As if it needs more praise, “The Doll” also boasts a top five Susie massacre (and the first time the show employs the Western-showdown score as her takedown theme?) when she catches Larry and Jeff sneaking around the house (they’re separated at the time) and later when she realizes what they were up to. In the opening moments, Larry and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss are pitching a show about a sitcom star tired of being associated with her one famous role. After this episode though, Larry had officially stepped out of Seinfeld’s shadow.