Saturday, September 30, 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

FRIDAY'S FORGOTTEN BOOKS, September 29, 2017

NIGHT TRAIN, Martin Amis

I came to NIGHT TRAIN having read only one Martin Amis book, THE RACHEL PAPERS. This is a very different book than THE RACHEL PAPERS and a very different book from the other books that preceded it. It was, I think, his ninth novel.

A female American cop, named Mike Hoolihan, investigates the apparent suicide of a young girl, Jennifer Rockwell, with everything to live for. She was also the daughter of Hoolihan's commanding officer. She is young, beautiful, has all of the assets and support Hoolihan does not. So it is this puzzle that occupies the investigation. Hoolihan makes a list of the things that would provoke a suicide and pursues them. At a certain point, a pattern begins to emerge.

Amis is able to imbue his main character with typical American cop traits. She is tough, scarred, a victim of abuse, determined.If she is able to get up every morning and face life, why not Jennifer? What makes some survive and others not. This question occupies much of the novel. 

Looking at the amazon reviews, some people faulted Amis for not writing his typical literary novel, some faulted him for not writing the typical police procedure. I credit him for writing a unique book.

Mark Baker, ANGEL'S FLIGHT, Michael Connelly
Yvette Banek, THE RIGHT SIDE, Spencer Quinn
Les Blatt, THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY, Agatha Christie
Brian Busby, REVENGE, Robert Barr
Martin Edwards, THE BOX OFFICE MURDERS, Freeman Wills Crofts
Richard Horton, NEW DREAMS THIS MORNING, James Blish
George Kelley, PAPERBACKS FROM HELL, Grady Hendrix
Margot Kinberg, AMONG THIEVES John Clarkson
B.V. Lawson, DR. NICOLA RETURNS. Guy Newell Boothby
Evan Lewis, "Surrogate" Robert Parker
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, DEEP END, Geoffrey Norman
Todd Mason, KIT REED
Neer, ASSASSINS, Jim Eldridge
Craig Pittman (THE RAP SHEET)La Brava, Elmore Leonard
Matt Paust, FINDING MOON, Tony Hillerman
James Reasoner, THE HARPERS OF TITAN, Edmond Hamilton
Gerard Saylor, GUN CHURCH, Reed Farrell Coleman
Kevin Tipple, THE WOMAN IN BLUE, Elly Griffiths
TomCat, THE CASE OF THE APRIL FOOLS, Christopher Bush
TracyK, THE CASE OF THE ROLLING BONES, Erle Stanley Gardner
Prashant Trikannad, BOOT HILL, AN ANTHOLOGY OF THE WEST, ed. Robert Randisi

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tuesday Night Music


I doubt that I will see a better movie than COLUMBUS this year. If you favor a lot of action, a big cast, noise, this probably isn't for you. But if you like quiet movies about the small moments in lives, you may like it too.
COLUMBUS takes place in Columbus, IN, rated the sixth best architectural place to visit in the U.S. and it is only a town of 40,000. All of the best modernist architects have buildings here and the movie makes good use of them. The two main characters, a girl of 20 (Haley Lu Richardson) and an older Korean-American (John Cho) are dealing with parent issues. But what makes the movie work so well is how their stories make use of the elements of architecture. Scenes are shot through windows, mirrors, doors, and only occasionally does it call direct attention to that. Hallways become an interesting way of showing distance. Their shared passion for architecture can only take them so far though. Such a beautiful movie. Directed by Kogonada, I think his name will become more familiar.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Forgotten Movies; GHOST STORY

This was a bit of a disappointment.I am not sure why the story seemed laid out poorly. And the acting was strange. Especially Craig Wasson, whose acting style didn't jibe at all with the four older actors. I loved the book and think if I read it again now I would still like it because there are good bones here. I think the direction is poor too. Perhaps the limitations of four elderly men impeded it as well. Also there was an awful lot of story to be told.
In summary: Four successful elderly gentlemen, members of the Chowder Society, share a gruesome, 50-year old secret. When one of Edward Wanderley's twin sons dies in a bizarre accident, the group begins to see a pattern of frightening events developing.
Read the book, skip the movie.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday Night Music

Things That Make Me Happy

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, I struggled to get into this. Some books require a deeper focus than I have had lately to appreciate their worth. And this was one of them. But now I "get" it and am really enjoying it. The beauty of the prose and the deep rendering of a character and place really hooked me.

Really enjoyed watching Kevin perform with his Monday night School of Rock group. Amazing to see these elementary school kids, sing, keyboard, play drums and guitar. They have so much stage presence already. And they all love it. They performed at a bar at noon, which was an odd experience but the stage and lighting was terrific.

Enjoyed the first episode of THE DEUCE. We had some friends over and they didn't get it at all. Their only TV watching is sports, news and Downton Abbey. They also don't read novels. They have trouble with narrative and they have no historical context for what a show like this is trying to do. So they were mystified, but we loved it. 

The weather still rocks. Our new sprinkler system is keeping our lawn florescent green despite the lack of rain.

Phil has had the cataracts removed from both eyes. Glad that is over with. Certainly the year for doctors. Hope we get some respite from it.

What about you?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The New Collection Debuts at the end of February

The majority of these stories appeared in anthologies, lit journals and fairly obscure venues. None were in MONKEY JUSTICE. One is brand new. I am very thankful that Jason Pinter was willing to take a chance on a collection. I know the sales for these are even lower than the sales for novels from unknown authors. There are about 25 stories in here. They vary in POV, setting, etc, but almost none are terribly violent. Thanks to the editors that first published them. They allowed me to forge a writing career of sorts. If you had told me a decade ago, I would have three books, two ebooks and over 140 stories, been nominated for four awards, I would have fallen into a dead faint. Hey Mom and Dad, I did amount to something.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 15, 2017

Forgotten Stories


This is a very short story that is discussed, filmed and anthologized repeateldy if you google it. You can read it right here.
A woman with a heart condition is brought news about the crash of a train that her husband was traveling on. She sits looking out the window, going through various stages of grief and ending up in an unexpected place. I won't tell you how it ends but you might suspect it. A bit of an O' Henry ending but beautifully written and making the interesting observation that we don't always know ourselves well. If you go to You Tube you can see many student productions of it. It must be often assigned.

Sergio Angelini, PAST TENSE, Margot Kinberg
Yvette Banek, THE HOUSE AT SEA'S END, Elly Griffiths. 
Elgin Bleecker, Final Jeopardy, Linda Fairstein
Martin Edwards, MURDER MARS THE TOUR, Mary Fit
Richard Horton,  Bow Down to Nul, by Brian W. Aldiss/The Dark Destroyers, by Manly Wade Wellman
Jerry House, THE WIND LEANS WEST, August Derleth 
George Kelley,  DAVID FALKAYN: STAR TRADER,  Poul Anderson
Margot Kinberg, THE DAWN PATROL, Don Winslow
B.V. Lawson, THE MOONSHINE WAR, Elmore Leonard
Evan Lewis, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, Ian Fleming
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, NO MATCH FOR THE LAW, Osmington Mills
Neer, LOST AMONG THE LIVING, Simone St.James
Scott Parker, THE SUN RISES WEST,  Oscar J. Friend
Matt Paust, THE AWAKENING, Kate Chopin
James Reasoner, THE EMPIRE OF DOOM, John Peter Drummond
Kevin Tipple, DICE ANGEL, Brian Rouff
TomCat, NO KILLER HAS WINGS, Joel Hoffman
TracyK, BUSMAN'S HOLIDAY, Dorothy Sayers

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Night Music

Remembering Glen through Alison.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Watching Freaks and Geeks for the First Time

Gee, this is a great little show. Even set in Michigan. Fun to see so many faces that went on to great careers. Many appear in just one episode (Lizzy Kaplan, Rashida Jones, etc.)

You guys ever watch it?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Along with ICE STORM and SHOOT THE MOON, this is one my favorite depictions of an unhappy family. I think they get so many thing right. Especially how a narcissist can fall apart when his supremacy is threatened. Jeff Daniel is able to embrace the character's flaws. Laura Linney is always good. This is an early performance by Jesse E. before his tics became embedded for life. It looks and feels right.Kudos to Noah Bambach.

So many films about dysfunctional families. What is a good one about a happy family?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

We have had so much much perfect weather, I feel guilty with what is going on in other areas.

Happy Kevin made a friend his first week in a new school.

Went with my friend, Mary, to see what may become (although I doubt it) a Broadway musical. Called Johnny Manhattan it's about the last night of a nightclub in 1958 Manhattan. Terrific cast but the music was just not good enough. The singing was terrific though. You kept waiting for them to play a song from that era but it was all original music and not memorable. However the set was good and it was enjoyable.

Happy we got Acorn this week. Once we could stream in through Amazon, $5 a month seemed worth it.

Happy that it seems like we got through these horrific weather events without the sort of death toll Katrina saw. Fingers crossed. 

And what about you?

Friday, September 08, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, Sepember 8, 2017

(from the archives)

COMPULSION by Meyer Levin

(Review by Deb)
Meyer Levin's COMPULSION is a lightly-fictionalized account of the sensational Leopold and Loeb murder case that gripped the nation in the mid-1920s.  Meyer's fictionalization (published in 1956) is very light indeed, with much of the dialog being taken verbatim from transcripts of police records and court testimony.  Even so, the novel is more than just a retelling of a senseless and horrific crime, it is a perceptive study of what the French call a folie-a-deux, wherein two people who are utterly toxic for each other are none-the-less hopelessly attracted to each other and, in the thrall of that attraction, commit acts that neither would necessarily have done without the dark-mirror image of the other goading them on.
In Levin's book, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb become Judd Steiner and Artie Strauss, neighbors in Chicago's wealthy and close-knit German-Jewish community. (There's a small but telling detail when Judd informs his aunt that he's going out with a girl named Ruth Goldenberg and his aunt sighs, "Oh, Russian-Jewish I suppose.")  Both men were child prodigies who had graduated from university by the time they were 18 years old.  As the book begins, both of them are still in their teens (as is Sid Silver, a newspaperman who narrates part of the book and plays a pivotal role in uncovering some of the evidence).  Adopting the guise of Nietzschean "supermen" who do not need to follow the laws applicable to average beings, Steiner and Strauss plan the "perfect murder."  They eventually kidnap a randomly-selected neighborhood boy on his way home from school.  They kill the boy, pour acid on the corpse, hide the body in a drainage ditch, and then put into motion an elaborate red-herring of a kidnapping-ransom plot.
This perfect murder rapidly unravels, starting with the victim's body being quickly discovered and identified.  Then damning evidence stacks up against the men:  Steiner's glasses--traced to him by their unique hinge mechanism--are found beside the victim, there is blood on the back seat of a car the men have rented, papers typed on Steiner's discarded typewriter match the typing on the bogus ransom notes, and Strauss's attempts to inject himself into the investigation (in order to discover how much the press and police actually know) backfire spectacularly.  Their alibis in shreds, the men confess to the crime, each blaming the other for striking the fatal blow (although, as Sid Silver points out, in that regard, one of them had to be telling the truth).
Considering that the book was written in the 1950s about a crime in the 1920s, one aspect that I found surprising (and rather refreshing) was its refusal to take the "easy" way out and blame the men's actions on the fact that they were closeted lovers, although society at the time certainly did, blaming all manner of depraved behavior on homosexuality.  However, narrator Sid Silver is puzzled by how much stress the authorities place on the men's relationship and asks of it, "In all the history of human behaviour, of the sick and ugly and distorted and careless and sportive and mistaken things that humans did, was this so much more?" 
In fact, Levin does not present the men as sexually "set," but rather most likely bisexual, with Judd being more interested in dominance and submission rather than the gender of his partner, and Artie using his good looks, affable facade, and charisma to attract both men and women.  I was also surprised at the frankness of the book, given the time it was written--Judd's dark fantasies, especially involving rape, are quite explicit.  Levin's book makes us feel if not sympathy then at least some understanding, particularly for the intense and brooding Judd whose infatuation with the manipulative and self-centered Artie is as inexplicable as its dreadful outcome is inevitable.
But I've only covered the first half of the book.  The second half, which centers on the mens' trial, is interesting, although it drags in places due to pages of legal arguments and long-winded explanations of Freudian psychology with which we are now completely familiar.  In order to avoid a jury trial and a sure death penalty, Steiner and Strauss plead guilty in the hopes that arguing before a judge might result in a life, rather than a death, sentence.  Aging lawyer Jonathan Wilk (a fictionalized Clarence Darrow) mounts a brilliant legal defense at their sentencing hearing that saves the men from execution, although they both receive sentences of “Life plus 99 years.”  And, other than a brief coda, there the book abruptly ends, with Steiner and Straus entering prison and fading from public memory. 
But this abruptness works in the book's favor by indicating that there will be other events and other atrocities that will come to overshadow the "crime of the century."  First of all, the rise of "some gangster named Al Capone" (as he is described in an offhand remark by one of Sid's colleagues about a gangland shooting) and the associated violence of Prohibition.  And then the actual "crime of the century"--the Nazi atrocities of World War II and everything the world was to learn about the "Superman" ideal and where it leads.
Meyer Levin wrote this book in part to assist Nathan Leopold in his attempt to be granted parole, which finally happened in 1958. Leopold moved to Puerto Rico, married, worked as an x-ray technician, and died in 1971.  Richard Loeb was not so fortunate: In 1936, he was stabbed multiple times by a fellow inmate who claimed Loeb had made sexual advances toward him.  Although the story was easily discounted, especially since Loeb was covered with defensive wounds and the inmate who killed him was unscathed, no charges were ever filed in his death.

Sergio Angelini, TILL DEATH DO US PART, John Dickson Carr
Yvette Banek, WHO KILLED THE CURATE Joan Coggin
Les Blatt, THE CHINESE BELL MURDERS, Robert Van Gulik
Bill Crider, THE PLUTONIUM BLONDE, John Zakour and Lawrence Ganen
Fleur Bradley,  MANIAC MAGEE, Jerry Spinelli
Martin Edwards, NIGHT EXERCISE, John Rhode
Curt Evans, DEBBIE DOWNER DOUBLE DOOM, Josephine Bell, George Orwell
Richard Horton, THE LONELY, Paul Gallico
Jerry House, WEIRD TALES, anon
George Kelley, THE DEVIL's ROSARY, Seabury Quinn
Margot Kinberg, THE EARTH HUMS IN B FLAT, Mari Stachan
Rob Kitchin, A LOVE STORY WITH MURDERS, Harry Bingham
Evan Lewis, Forgotten Comics and the Forgotten Record They Spawned
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, THE BURGLAR WHO TRADED TED WILLIAM, Lawrence Block
Todd Mason, 1960s Crime Magazines in English
Matt Paust, THE LAST GENTLEMAN, Walker Percy
James Reasoner, FOUR FRIGHTENED WOMEN, George Harmon Coxe
Gerard Saylor, SWAY, Zachary Lazar
Kerrie Smith, DARK PLACES, Gillian Flynn
Kevin Tipple, GAME FACE, Mary Troy
TomCat, THE FAIR MURDER, Nicholas Brady 
TracyK, DR. NO,Ian Fleming 
Westlake Review, FOREVER AND A DEATH

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

First Wednesdays Book Review Club: IN A LONELY PLACE, Dorothy B. Hughes

If the film version of IN A LONELY PLACE was crafted as a tragic love story, one can never feel the novel was meant to be that. The romance in the novel serves mostly to titillate the psychopathological tendencies of our protagonist, Dix Steele. He is a narcissist incapable of love for anyone but himself. Full of self-pity, and guilty of so many other sins, the book opens with a series of stranglings going on in LA. Dix, a pretend novelist living at the home of a missing friend,  was a heroic figure in the war and reconnects with an old army buddy, Brub who is now a cop and newly married. Then he meets Laurel,  a neighbor. Their romance if it  can be called that is filled with tense situations. This may be one of the tensest books I have ever read. And the resolution is one no man would ever pen.
I have to say that many of Dix's traits reminded me of our current leader: self-pity, the need to seek revenge, extreme narcissism, the ability to only see his side of an argument. And certainly the presence of women brings out the worst in him. This was a terrific novel if you can tolerate an unlikable protagonist. You want to feel some sympathy for him but never can muster up a drop.
The afterword in this new edition by NYRB is by Megan. Rest, Megan, rest.

For more reviews, see Barrie Summy.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Forgotten Movies: IN A LONELY PLACE

Wow, this is very different from the book but no less fantastic. Humphrey Bogart plays Dix Steele an alcoholic screenwriter with a long time between screenplays as the movie opens. He's been through the war and is trying to make a comeback. He meets Gloria Graham early on and there is an immediate attraction. And soon she alibis him for the murder of a hatcheck girl who was in his apartment earlier that night reading him a novel that he might adapt. Dix's problem is he has a temper that just won't quit. He's brutal, perhaps a sociopath. And Gloria has her issues too. This is a tense film and kudos to Bogart for playing such an difficult guy. Such a very sad love story.
Tomorrow we talk about the novel.

For a far better review than I have the time or talent to write, see this one from Roger Ebert. 

New Yorkers, This is playing at the Metrograph on Sept 12th at 7 pm with Megan doing the introduction. God knows where she gets the energy. Not from me. 

Monday, September 04, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

Reading, then seeing, IN A LONELY PLACE. How can two such different versions of a story both work so well. Cheers to Dorothy L. Hughes for her genius in writing both.

Lots more lovely weather in Michigan. We feel so guilty enjoying it when Houston and Louisiana are in such dire straits.

Loved the pilot of THE DEUCE. It is such a novelistic show. It must be written by novelists rather than TV writers, right?

I love Instagram, where I was able to share my son and his family's trip to Niagara Falls and Stratford. Sure in the old days you saw pictures a week later, but now you feel like you are following them around. Thanks to my son, Josh, for being so diligent in snapping his iphone.

Phil finished radiation on Wednesday. They ring a bell and cheer for you as you leave. It's not enough to want to come back though.

Enjoyed WIND RIVER this week. It may have been a bit too violent, but it was essential to show what the victims endured. If you don't feel their pain to some extent, you can't really care about them.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Friday, September 01, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 1, 2017

Naguib Mahfouz, Karnak Café (1974) (Ron Scheer-archives)

 This short novel by Nobel-winning Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz is a sadly melancholy story of the crushing of youthful hope. Set in the 1960s around the time of the 1967 war with Israel, it describes how a generation of young Egyptians, the children of the revolution of 1954, were betrayed and lied to by their government, while being subjected to interrogation and imprisonment by secret police.

Their story is told by an older man (and stand-in for the author), who befriends a gathering of them who are regulars at a Cairo café, Al-Karnak. There they talk of politics and express their idealistic aspirations, both for themselves and their country. Abruptly disappearing for periods of time, they return shaken and demoralized. While in police custody, kept in windowless cells, they have endured harsh treatment and false accusations.
Eventually it’s revealed that they have been coerced into becoming informants, which corrodes their trust in each other and eventually leads to the death of one of them. Two, a loving couple at the story’s start, are driven apart by their guilt and shame.

Karnak Café is a troubling vision of life in a modern police state, and it sheds light for Westerners on the recent struggles in Egypt for freedom and justice. Novella-length, it takes a stand somewhat distant from political events, while clearly throwing its sympathies to the young people who speak on its pages. It is currently available in paper and ebook format at amazon, Barnes&Noble, and AbeBooks. For more of Friday's Forgotten Books, click on over to Patti Abbott's blog.

Sergio Angelini, EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE, Lawrence Block
Yvette Banek, THE CURSE OF THE BRONZE LAMP, Carter Dickson
Elgin Bleecker, A DELIVERY OF FURIES, Victor Canning
Bill Crider, THE XANADU TALISMAN, Peter O'Donnell
Martin Edwards, INSPECTOR FRENCH'S GREATEST CASE, Freeman Wills Croft
Richard Horton, SNOW COUNTRY and A THOUSAND CRANES, Yasunari Kawabata
Jerry House, LOOK OUT FOR SPACE, William F. Nolan
George Kelly, WEEP FOR A BLONDE, Bretty Halliday
Margot Kinberg, THE COLABA CONSPIRACY, Surender Mohan Pathak
Rob Kitchin, HANNS AND RUDOLF, Thomas Harding
B.V. Lawson, SCARED TO DEATH, Felicity Shaw
Steve Lewis, THE WRENCH IS WICKED, Carter Brown
Todd Mason, TABOO and TABOO 2, ed. Paul Neimark
Neer, SHADOW SISTER, Simone Van Der Vlugt
Steven Nester (THE RAP SHEET) THE SWEET RIDE, William Murray
Matt Paust, THE SECOND COMING, Walker Percy
James Reasoner, COLOR HIM DEAD, Charles Runyon
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, Capsule Reviews.
TomCat, ESCAPE FROM THE TOWER, Roger Ormerod
TracyK, THE ABC MURDERS, Agatha Christie