Thursday, August 31, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


A terrific little film that I came across on Netflix. Two 13 year old boys meet when Jake's family inherits a brownstone from a grandfather. Tony is the son of the tenant, a seamstress and dress shop owner. Both boys desire a career in the arts so this immediately bonds them. The parents however are in an immediate war over the rent paid for the dress shop, which is far too low for the neighborhood. No one is a villain and yet no one is totally likable. That's what made it work so well. And sadly, the boys' friendship can't survive the parents' predicament. A wise, sad and complex film.

What film about childhood do you like?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017



So WILL AND GRACE is returning this fall. I can pretty much guarantee I won't watch it. I disliked the original show because although it pretended it was breaking ground in having two gay men as leads, there was barely a single scene that did not play to male homosexual stereotypes. Yes, we like show tunes, yes we think about sex 24 hours a day, yes, we care about our clothes,  yes, we only date male models. You would have to assume from this show that every male homosexual was interchangeable with every other one.

And even more than my dislike of the two male stars was my dislike of the two female stars. Karen was annoying in every scene: bitchy, shrieking voice, bad values, and on and on. And Grace was a poor me sorority girl.

I could never understand what anyone saw in this annoying foursome. Nor in the actors they brought on to play their parents, their dates, their friends.

And I can't believe the new show will be less annoying than the first version.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

It makes me happy that we have good friends that helped us last week with the trips across town to take care of Phil's first cataract surgery. And that includes Todd who did FFB. Not so easy doing radiation in the morning and cataract surgery and followups in the PM. Wow, why don't I drive?

Very happy with the pilot of THE DEUCE. They managed to introduce dozens of characters in a way that made me remember them. The look of it is fantastic, the acting splendid. The dialog superb. It just felt so right. They haven't quite settled into the story yet, but I know that is coming. It must be the biggest cast on TV. The most lavish sets.

Loving IN A LONELY PLACE, which I don't know why I never read before. It is so skilled in its telling. A real course in how to make an unlikable protagonist interesting enough to stick with.

So far, so good with the TV series SPOTLESS, about two brothers dragged into mob activity with their crime scene cleanup business. A bit like Ray Donavan but not so much to ruin it.

Also recommend LAST CHANCE U on Netflix about a bunch of football players at East MS Community College with their last chance to qualify to play professional football.

What about you? 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books. August 25, 2017

                                                  Todd Mason will have the links today.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Girls On the Run

I am reading THE SISTERS CHASE where two sisters are on the run. It seems like every book I read lately features girls on the run. This was true of SUNBURN (Lippman). This was also true in THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS (Robotham) and to some extent THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER.

Has it always been like this? In the past, were girls on the run so much in crime fiction.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Forgotten Movies: DEAD ZONE

Well, I have to say that this film really didn't work for me. Directed by David Cronenberg in 1983, it was the wrong director, the wrong actor, and perhaps made in the wrong era. Christopher Walken is too quirky from the get go due to his personal style to make this guy seem like someone who becomes quirky.
Plot: Walken, about to marry Brooke Adams and happy to teach school, gets into an accident, is in a coma for three years, and comes to as a person inhabiting the Dead Zone. He has the ability to see the future, which turns out to be a curse most of the time. The movie was too episodic for my taste. And Walken never is believable as the everyman. I did like the fact it was made in Niagara on the Lake, one of  my favorite places though. But the setting can only take you so far. I was bored rather than scared. Critics from VULTURE see this as one of the best King films. To me STAND BY ME, CARRIE and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION are the top three. What do you think?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Night Music


Summer camps are wondrous things. Kevin attended camps where he improved his guitar playing, built robots, learned to dive, sharpened hockey, baseball and tennis skills, made computer games, and sometimes just played. School of Rock has turned him into an avid guitar player. No doubt he will have a garage band. Hope he gets the President he deserves sooner rather than later.

Loved SUNBURN by Laura Lippman.(Not out yet).

Enjoyed my book group's discussion of Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance) How much I admire how hard these women work to get the most out of a book. The book group is in its 16th year and I hate to miss a meeting.

The Dream Cruise...40,000 classic cars and over a million people cruise Woodward Avenue from Detroit to Pontiac, perhaps a 20 mile stretch over the third Saturday in August. Although the events spill over into the days preceding it. They pitch tents, set up bleachers, set up food, and watch cars go by. The vast majority of cars (and perhaps spectators) are from the sixties to the eighties. But there are plenty of earlier ones to see. Living a block away from this now is mostly annoying. But I grew up with a father working in the car industry so cars are kinda in my blood.I sneaked over and watched in as it began on Saturday. Kind of thrilling.

 And Megan's birthday is on the eclipse today. We had a special necklace made to celebrate it. It's gold with a moon and two stars with peridots in them.

What about you?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

For Anyone in Australia Next Weekend


Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott is the award-winning author of eight novels, including The End of Everything, Dare Me and The Fever. She is also the author of The Street Was Mine, a study of hardboiled fiction and film noir. Her work has won or been nominated for the CWA Steel Dagger, the International Thriller Writers Award, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize and five Edgar awards. Currently, she is a staff writer on HBO’s new David Simon show The Deuce and is adapting two of her novels for television. Her latest novel is You Will Know Me.

Appearing in these sessions

Meet Megan AbbottMore
Binge CultureMore
Local Libraries: Megan AbbottMore
The Dark Side of WomanhoodMore
Available at Readings
You Will Know Me

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Night Music

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 18, 2017

(Something of a spoiler alert)

Nemesis by Philip Roth.

Nemesis is the story of a polio epidemic in Newark in 1944 and especially about its impact on a Mr. Canter, who runs a playground program and is about to become engaged.

Roth does an excellent job of showing the effects of polio on this small neighborhood, in relaying the horrible progression of the epidemic, which cruelly was most often contracted by kids.

But at Nemesis' end and despite my interest in this polio epidemic plot, I realized it wasn't really about polio. What it was about was the way in which individuals deal with the onslaught of horror in their lives. How some people can go on fairly effectively, not let things like disease or war or economic disasters corrupt their lives. But others cannot get past their terrible luck, and the idea that this turn of events was unjust. The idea that they didn't deserve it  completely derails them. The bitterness poisons everything.

I have read perhaps half a dozen books by Roth but apparently his last four books have dealt with this theme and I am most interested in seeing how his other characters deal with the fall of the sword.

When I wrote this little did I know
how the sword would fall on so many of us in the next few years.

Highly recommended.

Sergio Angelini, NINE AND TEN MAKES DEATH, Carter Dickson
Yvette Banek, DESTINATION UNKNOWN, Agatha Christie
Les Blatt, CONTINENTAL CRIMES, ed. Martin Edwards
Brian Busby, CAUGHT IN THE SNARE, Mary Agnes Fleming
Bill Crider, TURN ON THE HEAT, Erle Stanley Gardner
Richard Horton, RECALLED TO LIFE, Robert Silverberg
Jerry House, THE BARON IN FRANCE, John Creasey
Nick Jones, "Science Fiction from the Lewes Book Fair"
George Kelley, A CENTURY OF GREAT SUSPENSE, ed. Jeffrey Deaver 
Margot Kinberg, THE CEMETERY OF SWALLOWS, Jean-Denis Bruet Ferreols
Rob Kitchin, THE DUST OF DEATH, Paul Charles
B.V. Lawson, NAKED VILLAINY, Sara Woods
Evan Lewis, THE GUNSLINGER, Stephen King
Steve Lewis, THE PUNCH AND JUDY MURDERS, Carter Dickson
Scott D. Parker KILLER'S DOOM: A Walt Slade Western by Bradford Scott.  
Matt Paust, THE THANATOS SYNDROME, Walker Percy
James Reasoner, SENORITA DEATH, Phil Richards
Gerard Saylor, EIGHTH CIRCLE, Sarah Cain
TracyK, DEAD SKIP, Joe Gores

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What Crime Series Has Tauight You the Most About a Time or Place?

With many series to choose from I am going to credit Tana French for bringing modern Dublin to life through her Dublin Murder Squad series. Runner-up would be Tony Hillerman's books about Navajo life in the Four Corners.Waiting for the next Hillerman was a treat in the 90s.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Neglected Movies: WIN IT ALL

This is a small 2017 movie that works well on its own terms. Jake Johnson plays a gambler, and one that almost never wins. When a friend goes off to serve a prison term, he leaves our hapless hero with a bag of money to hold for him. Of course, what gambler can resist trying his hand with all that time to replace lost money. And, things look okay until his pal gets an early release. Jake Johnson wrote this with his friend Joe Swanberg who also directed. The two made another winner DRINKING BUDDIES a few years back. A likable movie that maybe is not quite as original as it needs to be. But still a good 90 minutes.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Night Music

So strange that the audience is so sedate. A very different act perhaps preceded this. Plus they seem too old for Dion.


Being honest here, not much. We did see a fabulous movie, LADY MACBETH. Phil is very much enjoying THE CORONER'S LUNCH and I am enjoying SUNBURN by Laura Lippman. We also saw OTELLO streamed from the Royal Opera House in London. And Megan said she is coming out both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I managed to find a childhood friend via facebook. I was asked to write a story for an anthology raising money for Planned Parenthood.

So it sounds like a good week. But what's going on in Virginia and the way Trump framed it; the idea he might go to war with virtually any country on the face of the earth appalls me. Too many sick friends. The very idea of white supremacists makes my blood boil. Do they have any idea what suffering others have endured? And for the first time they have a champion for their cause in the White House.

My therapist says I allow what might happen to overwhelm what is happening. This is true.
I got the book George read last week on anxiety and that has lots of insights too. Anxiety often begins with respiratory incidents according to the author. And I was in an oxygen tent with pneumonia as a six-year old child. So I wonder if that's the beginning. My insomnia began the next  year.

Sorry to anaylze myself here. Tell me what good stuff happened to you.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Night Music

Friday' Forgotten Book, August 11, 2017

(from the archives)
Nigel Bird

Stuart Kaminsky: Murder On The Yellow Brick Road

I’ve just come to the end of a rather good book. ‘City Of Dragons’ is set in the 1940s and centres upon the work of private eye Miranda Corbie. She’s a tough, hard-drinking, attractive lady with a history as colourful as a butterfly and she’s a wonderful addition to the world of detective fiction.
The good news for me is that I’ve heard from the author, Kelli Stanley, that Miranda is to make a reappearance or two, which gives me something to look forward to and a couple of easier choices when I’m facing the bookstore shelves at some point in the future.

I love to be able to watch characters as their lives unfold from one book to the next, to see them age alongside the people around them as their worlds change. It’s like forming any relationship – the more time you spend in someone else’s company, the better you get to know them (for better or worse). I’ve spent many happy hours with Maigret, Van Der Valk, Harry Bosch, Matt Scudder, Nick Stefanos, Hap Collins/Leonard Pine, and I’m always delighted to discover someone new and interesting to befriend.

One such character has been Toby Peters. I was surprised recently to see that he wasn’t even in contention on a site looking for a favourite detective – didn’t even make the first hundred. I have no idea why. He’s a fabulous character. Powerful and tough on the exterior, soft yet cynical, clever and determined and with a real code of discretion and loyalty that goes further than any sane person would take it. He’s not a son of Chandler or Hammett, but can’t be much further away than being one of their nephews.

He’s no derivative character, either. There’s a difference between homage and imitation and Kaminsky seems to understand that well.
In ‘Murder On The Yellow Brick Road’ we see Kaminsky (and Peters) at his finest. It’s not the first in the series so things are well developed and it’s not further on in the series when Kaminsky hadn’t quite found the confidence needed to leave out elements of the back-story.

“SOMEBODY HAD MURDERED a Munchkin,” is the opening line. Coming on the back of a wonderful title, I was hooked from that point on.
Toby Peters is called in to investigate. Employed over at Warner Brothers until he broke the arm of a B movie cowboy-actor, his services are enlisted by MGM to keep Judy Garland’s name out of the dirt.
It’s his discretion and his integrity that land him a job; that and an interview with Louis B Mayer. Judy is in a difficult position and it’s not looking good for either the star or the star-machine.
In steps Peters. He defends a Swiss midget seen arguing with his fellow Munchkin and victim on a number of occasions and follows up on leads that take him to interview Clark Gable. Later, while working the case, he bumps into Raymond Chandler who’s hoping to get some tips, meets some rough and dangerous characters and he even gets to see Randolph Hearst.
There’s a reel of film involved, blackmail plots and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing all the way. When the villain of the piece is revealed, you’re only a few steps ahead of the game, which keeps it tense and interesting to the end.

Looking at the cast of characters, it would be easy to dismiss this book as a gimmick. I choose to see it in a different way. Kaminsky is playing to his strengths, marrying together his passion and knowledge of film and fiction to create a tale that is worthy of the best.
By mixing in real characters into his plots he was taking a big chance given that many people have strong feelings about all those involved. I’m no expert, but the way Garland and Gable come across it feels entirely as I might have imagined.

At times, the humour and the theatrical nature of the plot and scenes are used to paper over any cracks and the result is a real gem. It’s not only Peters who we come to love. There are a number of other characters in his life who have been beautifully constructed.
There’s Sheldon Mink, lunatic dentist with whom Peters shares an office. Anyone visiting him for treatment should really be seeing a shrink.
Jeremy Butler is the man who owns the building where Mink and Peters hang out. He’s an ex-wrestler, new-father and ageing poet rolled into one package, as well as being someone that’s useful to have around when the going gets tough.
There’s his landlady, a deaf old bird who seems to have selective hearing and a desire to have her memoirs published.
And there’s his brother, a big wig in the police force. When it comes to sibling rivalry we’re talking Cain and Abel. Unlike Toby, Lieutenant Phil Pevsner hasn’t changed his name to mask his heritage. Phil also happens to have the temper of a Berserker and the strength of a team of oxen and he uses both pretty much every time they have a reunion.
These characters play key roles in this and the following books.
When I came to finish ‘Yellow Brick Road’ I really needed to get straight into another. And another after that. And how’s this for a title of a later book - Mildred Pierced; it takes a hell of a mind to come up with jewels like that on such a regular basis.
Light, intriguing and rooted in the early days of detective fiction, pick up this book and you’re sure to return to mine the rich vein that lays waiting for you.

Sergio Angelini, HARK, Ed McBain
Yvette Banek, BLOOD AND JUDGMENT, Michael Gilbert, DEATH IN FIVE BOXES, Carter Dickson
Les Blatt, SCARWEATHER, Anthony Rolls  
Brian Busby, Edith Percival, May Agnes Fleming
Bill Crider, POTENT STUFF, Al James
Martin Edwards, TRENT'S OWN CASE, E.C. Bentley
Charles Gramlich, DARK HOURS, Sidney Williams
Richard Horton, THE HISTORY OF HENRY ESMOND, William Makepeace Thackeray 
George Kelley, THE VAN RIJIN METHOD, Poul Anderson
Margot Kinberg, MURDER IN THE MARAIS, Cara Black  
B.V. Lawson, DEATH IN THE OLD COUNTRY, Eric Wright 
Evan Lewis, GIRL IN A BIG BRASS BED, Peter Rabe
Steve Lewis, MURDER ON THE MAURETANIA, Conrad Allen
J.F. Norris, ANGEL LOVES NOBODY, Richard Miles
Matt Paust, LOVE IN THE RUINS, Walker Percy 
James Reasoner, THE SCARLET KILLER AND OTHER STORIES,  Malcolm Wheeler Nicholson
Gerard Saylor, DEADMAN'S ROAD, Joe R. Lansdale 
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, WHO'S NEXT, George Baxt
TracyK, THE RAINBIRD PATTERN, Victor Canning

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Man Up

A single woman runs into a 40 year old divorcee, Jack, who mistakes her for his 24 year old blind date. Nancy goes with it and they share a very funny evening.
'Man Up' is a romantic comedy about taking chances, finding about being yourself, making decisions and rolling with the consequences.
Simon Pegg is always enjoyable but this is the first time I've seen him play the romantic lead. He does a good job as does Lake Bell. Directed by Ben Palmer, just the nice sort of movie you want on a late summer evening.

Man Up is available on Netflix and runs less than 90 minutes, my sweet spot for romantic comedies.

Monday, August 07, 2017


Spent a very enjoyable Saturday with the whole gang. It doesn't happen enough. And in such a small family, it still seems like there should be more of us. Thanks to my son and DIL for making this happen. The only fly in the ointment was that Megan had to leave early to avoid bad weather. So instead of two days it was only a day and a half. The airlines put you in a bind when they email you saying if you want to change your flight you must do it now.

Lovely weather lately.

Enjoying a Belgian TV series on Netflix called HOTEL BEAU SEJOUR. It's about a ghost and a crime. What could be better. There is even a dubbing option offered but we went with the subtitled version.

Megan passed on an ARC of Laura Lippman's February book SUNBURN, which looks to be terrific.She loved it.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Friday, August 04, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 4, 2017


 (from the archives)

BIG TOWN by Doug J. Swanson (reviewed by Nerd of Noir)

Doug J. Swanson was a hero to me when I was a teenager. I can remember reading his debut, Big Town, on a camping trip when I was twelve. It was one of those books that just woke me up, showed me how down and dirty the crime genre could be.

I'd say that Big Town played a major role in making me a crime fiction fan for life. No shit, dear readers. None whatsofuckingever.

Big Town is the first in Swanson's shamefully under-appreciated Jack Flippo novels, a private eye series set in Dallas, Texas (in case you thought I meant the other Dallas...). Flippo used to work in the DA's office until his dick got him into some trouble (and I don't mean like his dick didn't use the proper format on a memo, I mean like his dick had sex with the wrong woman), costing him his job. Now he's one step ahead of the repo man and collection agencies, living in a shit shack that no bum would envy, and he still hasn't learned to think with the other head.

Jack is hard up for money (in case that last sentence wasn't clear...) so he takes a quick job from a scummy lawyer friend snapping photos of the famous huckster/entrepeneur Buddy George cheating on his wife. Bad shit goes down during the shoot and Jack ends up saving the mistress from George's violent idea of sex.

Then he finds out that George's "wife" is actually his opportunistic secretary, Paula (who happens to be smoking hot) and that someone paid the mistress to seduce Buddy George. Obviously, things are not what they seem and soon Jack is in the thick of a twisted blackmail plot that is - no joke - fucking brimming with double crosses, hot sex and some memorably nasty violence.

What first strikes you about Big Town is that while it seems to be a P.I. novel, it quickly becomes clear that it is more of a crime novel than a mystery. There aren't any major revelations or anything, we're kept abreast of shit along the way like an Elmore Leonard novel. We get to follow all the major players in this one and thank God, because Jack has some great fucking characters surrounding him - Teddy Deuce chief amongst them.

Teddy is the henchman in this book, the idiot muscle counted upon to deliver the beat downs and intimidate the competition. Thing is, dude's about as loyal as your dog when a stranger offers him a piece of hamburger. Teddy double-crosses people so often that his dumb ass can't keep straight who he's working for eventually.

Then there's Buddy George, the Napoleonic motivational speaker. And the sexy femme fatale Paula. And the mistress Sharronda. And Sharronda's white trash piece of shit boyfriend Delbert - a brief (guess what happens) but MAJOR highlight.

But of course, a series is only as strong as its hero and Jack is one of the all-timers. He is as smart as they come and says all the cool lines but, goddamnit, dude just can't see a foot in front of him if his dick is at attention. In other words, he's willing to over-look certain things about Paula, a woman he can't even remotely trust but man is she purty, a situation that leads to him becoming one of the more dark and fascinating series heroes I've ever encountered.

Swanson hit the fucker out the park his first time around and his following novels were no slouches either. Dreamboat, the second book, has this mistaken identity thing near the end involving tattoos that is just the nastiest, most perverse, excellent scene ever. I mean it just...shit. I guess this FFB entry is really just a plug for Swanson's body of work. The guy was just so damned good and it's coming up on a decade since we've heard anything from him. That is a shame and a fucking half.

I think Swanson's brand of sick, funny and dark would fit right in with the big boys of neo-noir that are pumping out the awesome today. He had his own thing going with Jack Flippo - a PI series that was more Cain than Chandler - and Big Town showed he had it down cold right out the fucking gate.

Sergio Angelini, HARD-BOILED, NOIR AND GOLD MEDALS, Rick Ollerman
Yvette Banek, MURDER ON SAFARI, Elspeth Huxley
Joe Barone, THE BACHELORS OF BROKEN HILL, Arthur Upfield
Les Blatt, BRAZEN TONGUE, Gladys Mitchell
Elgin Bleecker, THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, Anthony Hope
Brian Busby, OVER THE TOP: A WAR POEM, Sergeant Stanley B. Fullerton
Bill Crider, THE BACKUP MEN, Ross Thomas
Scott Cupp, ISLES OF THE DEAD, Roger Zelazny
Martin Edwards, UNEXPECTED NIGHT, Elizabeth Daly
Richard Horton, IN THE HALL OF THE MARTIAN KING, John Barnes
Jerry House, THE PLANT, Stephen King
George Kelley, THE STORY OF CLASSIC CRIME IN 100 BOOKS, Martin Edwards
Margot Kinberg, TRIAL OF PASSION, William Deverell
Rob Kitchin, THE BURNING GATES, Parker Bilal
B.V. Lawson, THE END OF SOLOMON GRUNDY, Julian Symons
Evan Lewis, PRISONER'S BASE, Rex Stout
Steve Lewis, DEATH WEARS A MASK, Ashley Weaver
Todd Mason, THE BARBIE MURDERS, John Varley
J.F. Norris, THE ARROW POINTS TO MURDER, Frederica De Laguna
Matt Paust, COMEDIES OF COURTSHIP, Anthony Hope
James Reasoner, THE EASY GUN. E.M. Parsons
Gerard Saylor, KIWI WARS,  Garry Kilworth
Kevin Tipple,/ Barry Ergang, BOOTLEGGER'S DAUGHTER, Margaret Maron
TomCat, THE ECHOING STRANGER, Gladys Mitchell
TracyK, THE FASHION IN SHROUDS, Margery Allingham

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Unusual settings in a novel.

What first comes to mind is THE LIFE OF PI, which takes place almost entirely in a lifeboat.

What other settings come to mind?

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Tuesday Forgotten Movie: THE LAST PICTURE SHOW

This film holds up wonderfully. So many characters with depth to them. Even the smallest parts. Yes black and white but so much more than that. This is a scrapheap of a town. A dusty, dirty disappearing piece of long ago. Set in the fifties, it seems to set the standard for what would happen time and time again to towns in the next 75 years. Larry McMurtry sure can tell a tale. Peter Bogdonavich probably never matched the combination of story, setting and character again. There is not a happy end for anyone. Nor hardly a happy moment.