Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Your Favorite Mystery Taking Place on a Train: Book or Movie

Watched the TV version of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, which was disappointing. Suchet played it as grimly and judgmentally as possible and it seems like a lot of text about religion was added. Also I don't remember it as being quite so much a Poirot in every scene affair. And also it was quite claustrophobic, which may or may not be there. I'll take the Albert Finney version.

Anyway, I love movies/books set in trains. And my favorite is THE LADY VANISHES. Love every minute of that one. Love Chalders and Caldicott and their cricket obsession.

I have never read the book though.

What is favorite fictional train trip?  (I am sure I have asked this before because I can ever remember some responses).

And anyone who wants to name the HOMICIDE episode from season 6 set in the subway, yes!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Forgotten Movies: GREEN FOR DANGER

Sergio Angelini reviewed this recently. So we watched it too. I remember reading the book when it was on a list as one of the 100 best mysteries. But I did not remember the ending. And I do think the way it was filmed enhanced its strengths. The tonal shift when Alastair Sims shows up as the Inspector is odd but enjoyable. It is set in a hospital during the war. It is close to a locked room murder in some respects. Well-acted, stylish. We enjoyed it. And every actor plays their part well.

For a longer and better look at this film, here is Sergio's review

Monday, November 27, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dad.

My father, Ralph Edward Nase, was born in 1914, the sixteenth of nineteen children. He was put to work by six or so, selling pretzels, delivering the newspaper, doing whatever he could to bring in money for a family supported by a father who worked in a cigar factory.

They lived in a three-bedroom house with all the boys sleeping in the attic. They raised their own food and butchered their own animals. They were Lutheran and took religion seriously.
Recent immigrants, no. They came to Pennsylvania centuries earlier from Alsace-Lorraine. The original spelling of their name was probably Neys or Nehs. The town he grew up in was filled with Nases, some spelling it Nace.

He got a two-year degree in bookkeeping (following the lead of an older brother) and took a job keeping the books for Oak Terrace Country Club. He married my Mom in 1941 and was drafted the same day. He spent the next four years fighting in Europe.
He was a devoted father, husband and church goer. He never lifted a hand to us, was always kind and affectionate. But he often worked 60 hours a week. It was hard life that he never complained about. He liked working, liked keeping busy, loved to walk, play tennis, play ball, dance.

He loved to be the center of attention and loved his grandchildren, loved all children.
He is very much missed.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
He never understood what blogs were or online but he would love being on here today.

Things That Make Me Happy

I have begun to divide old photos up between my two kids and it was fun to hear them remember fondly vacations, Halloween costumes, grandparents and various other times on Thanksgiving. It was almost always just the four of us in their childhood and it is so nice now to be a bigger group.

Also fun to play games together and not electronic games. We especially enjoyed THE OREGON TRAIL. Although most of us died before reaching the coast, it was fun.

We enjoyed rewatching the Thanksgiving episodes of FRIENDS and hearing Kevin recite every line of them. Clearly he has rewatched. Say what you want about FRIENDS, it was a funny show with great chemistry and great writing. It made some mistakes, yet, but it reflected the era it played in.

Loved LADYBIRD. Perhaps the best evocation of a mother-daughter relationship on film ever. So beautifully done by first-time director Greta Gerwig.Also enjoyed THREE BILLBOARDS IN EBBING MISSOURI. Sam Rockwell especially impressed me.

Kudos to Katee Sackhoff for the acting she is doing on this last season of LONGMIRE. She has always been a great asset to the show, but she gets to show her depth as an actor finally.

Fondly remembering my Dad today who would have been 103. He was a good father and a good husband.

And what about you?

Saturday, November 25, 2017

I am so lucky to have a  husband who after 50 years still plays music when we decorate the house for Christmas.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 24, 2017

Heath Lowrance (from the archives)

“Forgotten book” might be the wrong way to describe Dan J. Marlowe’s The Name of the Game is Death. For hard-core fans of brutal, fast-paced noir, the book is anything but forgotten-- it is, in fact, considered a cornerstone of the genre. But despite that, in the fifty years since its first publication it’s been out of print more often than in, and most casual readers of crime fiction have never heard of it. For me, The Name of the Game is Death is one of the essential five or ten books in the world of hardboiled/noir.
The story: a career criminal calling himself Roy Martin (more on his name later) holes up after a botched bank robbery, while his partner sends him monthly allotments of their take. But when the money stops coming, Martin suspects the worst and sets off to find out what happened. The small town he finds turns out to be a cesspool of corruption and hypocrisy that makes even Martin’s twisted morality seem sane and rational by comparison.
In the hands of most writers, this rather simple plot wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy, but Marlowe paints a vivid picture of Martin, not just through his actions but also in a set of chilling flashbacks to Martins’ youth and young manhood, where all the signs of a sociopathic personality begin to emerge. And the steps Martin takes to find out what happened to his partner and to retrieve his money reinforce him as a deeply disturbed man.
Quite simply, he enjoys killing and hurting people; in one memorable scene, he’s unable to become sexually aroused for intercourse, and admits to himself that the only thing that really turns him on is bloodshed-- in a later scene, he brutalizes a woman who attempted to set him up, and he’s able to “perform” without a hitch.
So all in all, Roy Martin is a seriously messed-up sociopath, with barely a redeeming feature-- aside from a fondness for animals. Why do we find ourselves almost rooting for him? Because almost everyone else he encounters is a hollow, lying hypocrite. Martin is the only character who is actually true to himself… much to the horror of everyone else.
The climax to Th e Name of the Game is Death is stunningly violent, very dark, and totally chilling-- not the sort of ending that would cause you to expect a sequel. And yet Marlowe did indeed bring the character back a few years later for a book that was almost-but-not-quite as good as the first, One Endless Hour. In that one we discover that Martin’s name is actually Drake (which is how he’s often referred to when discussing The Name of the Game is Death).
More books about “The Man with Nobody’s Face” would follow, each one a bit softer than the one before, until almost all signs of the near-psychopathic Martin were gone, replaced by a repentant crook who now worked for the government.
But lovers of dark, violent tales will always remember him as the blood-thirsty killer calling himself Roy Martin.

Mark Baker, I IS FOR INNOCENT, Sue Grafton
Bill Crider. AMONG THE GENTLY MAD, Nicholas Brasbane
Martin Edwards, THE THIRD EYE, Ethel Lina White
Curt Evans, BLOOD FROM A STONE, Ruth Sawtell Wallis,
George Kelley, FIRST PERSON SINGULARITIES, Robert Silverberg
Margot Kinberg, DEAD LEMONS, Finn Bell
Rob Kitchin, CODEBREAKERS, James Wiley and Michael McKinley
Evan Lewis, A NOOSE FOR THE DESPERADO, Clifton Adams
Steve Lewis, Robert Briney, CASTLE SKULL, John Dickson Carr
Neer, THE FEVER TREE, Richard Mason
J.F. Norris, COMETS HAVE LONG TAILS, Madeleine Johnston
Todd Mason, Terry Carr, ed: SCIENCE FICTION FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE SCIENCE FICTION ; Harry Harrison, ed: THE LIGHT FANTASTIC  --Redux post from 2012
Matt Paust, MRS. MCGINTY'S DEAD, Agatha Christie
James Reasoner, THE NIGHT HELL'S CORNER DIED, Clay Ringold
Gerard Saylor, IT'S MY FUNERAL, Peter Rabe
Kevin Tipple
TomCat, THE CASE OF THE BONFIRE BODY, Christopher Bush

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Forgotten Movies

What brought this to mind was that we saw the play on Friday night. The cast here was excellent as was the cast in the version we saw. A play this elegant and profound has to touch you and it did.

Have you seen either the play or movie?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

It makes me happy that Kevin is always inventing games even if I never quite understand them!

Really enjoyed a local production of A RAISIN IN THE SUN, which is more powerful now than ever. Well, at least as powerful now as ever.

Happy to have lunch with some old friends that have been going through the same sort of hard times we have but have not let it beat them down. Janet was a professor of folklore before her retirement. Andrea, a professor Italian. It was fun to compare recent reads, movies, tv, trying to stay away from the BIG TOPIC. And fun to hear they are having their first grandchild soon. The parents have not asked the sex, which I find incomprehensible. Why talk about the baby as it when you could take about it as she or he?

How about you? 

Oh, and this from Ken Bruen.
  Patricia Abbott's collection of stories are just electric
Utterly amazing
In any collection there are usually a few duds.
Not here
no way
The short story form is perhaps the most difficult to achieve artistry in
PA joins the very select few
Frank O Connor
Raymond Carver
De Maupassant
who has not only mastered this art but brought something entirely new to the genre
A dark captivating compassion.
gra go mor

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 10, 2017

(from the archives: Ed Gorman)

Forgotten Books: Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson

Let's begin with a tale of woe. Mine.

Years ago I was asked to contribute a forty thousand word novella to a YA series about shapeshifters. You know, beings humans and otherwise who can transform themselves into other kinds of creatures. I immediately thought of Jack Williamson's The Wolves of Darkness, a grand old pulp novella set in the snowy American West and featuring enough creepy
violence and tangled romance to make it memorable. It even has its moments of sweeping poetry.

Reading Williamson's piece showed me how to write my own. A few days after the young editor received it he called to rave. And I do mean rave. The best of the entire series. Eerie and poetic. Yadda yadda yadda. For the next forty-eight hours I was intolerable to be around. It was during this time our five cats learned to give me the finger. My swollen head was pricked soon enough. The young editor's older boss hated it. He gave my editor a list of reasons he hated it. I was to rewrite it. I wouldn't do it. I said I'd just write another one, which I did. Old editor seemed to like this one all right but he still wasn't keen on how my "characterizations" occasionally stopped the action. Backstory--verboten.

Shortly after this werewolves began to be popular. I spoke to a small reading group one night and told them about Wolves of Darkness and then about Williamson's novel Darker Than You Think. Everything I love about pulp fantasy is in this book. The werewolf angle quickly becomes just part of a massive struggle for the soul of humanity. As British reviewer Tom Matic points out:

"According to its backstory, homo sapiens emerged as the dominant species after a long and bitter struggle with another species, homo lycanthropus, whose ability to manipulate probability gave it the power to change its shape and practise magic. These concepts, fascinating as
they are, might make for dry reading were they not mediated via a gripping thriller riddled with startling plot twists, that blends scientific romance with images of stark bloodcurdling horror, such as the kitten throttled with a ribbon and impaled with a pin to induce Mondrick's asthma attack and heart failure, and the pathetic yet fearsome figure of his blind widow, her eyes clawed out by were-leopards. With its scenes of demonic mayhem in an academic setting and the sexual and moral sparring between the two main characters, it almost feels like a prototype of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer in a film noir setting."

Williamson couching his shapeshifters in terms of science fiction lends the story a realistic edge fantasies rarely achieve. The brooding psychology of the characters also have, as Matic points out, a noirish feel. And as always Williams manages to make the natural environment a
strong element in the story. He's as good with city folk as rural. And he's especially good with his version of the femme fatale, though here she turns out to be as complicated and tortured as the protagonist.

This is one whomping great tale. If you're tired of today's werewolves, try this classic and you'll be hooked not only by this book but by Jack Williamson' work in general..  

Sergio Angelini, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, Sergio Angelini
Les Blatt, THE ORIGIN OF EVIL, Ellery Queen
Richard Horton, THE ORDEAL OF GILBERT PINFOLD, Evelyn Waugh
George Kelly, HARD-BOILED, NOIR AND GOLD MEDALS, Rick Ollerman
Margot Kinberg, NUNSLINGER, Stark Holborn
Rob Kitchin, A RISING MAN, Abir Mukherjee
B.V. Lawson, THE SLIPPER POINT MYSTERY, Augusta Huiell Seaman
Evan Lewis, CODE NAME GADGET, Peter Rabe
Steve Lewis, NOT A THROUGH STREET, Ernest Larsen 
Todd Mason, VENTURE: THE TRAVELER'S WORLD (Feburary, '65)
Juri Numellin, HOURS BEFORE DAWN, Celia Fremlin
Matt Paust, DESTINATION UNKNOWN, Agatha Christie
Gerard Saylor, DIG MY GRAVE DEEP, Peter Rabe
Kevin Tipple, THE KILLER WORE CRANBERRY: A SECOND HELPING, edited by J. Alan Hartman
Tomcat, DANCING DEATH, Christopher Bush and ANNE VAN DORN
TracyK, BROTHERS KEEPERS, Donald E. Westlake 
Westlake Review, DIRTY MONEY, Part 3

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Who are the biggest holes in your reading of crime fiction?

I have many holes, but about half the books I read are out of the genre. But in the genre, I have never read Ellery Queen, Michael Connelly or Hugh Pentecost. There are plenty more too.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Tuesday Night Music

The Saddest Movies

I thought about this a bit and decided, the movie had to be a good one. I wasn't going to highlight a movie that was sad but lousy. There are a lot of those--mostly romances. So my five saddest movies would be CALVARY, MOONLIGHT, PRIEST,ORDINARY PEOPLE and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. I am sure given this task tomorrow others would come to me.

What movies would you choose?

Monday, November 06, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

Seeing LA BOHEME on my local arthouse movies screen live from the Royal Opera House in London. This program and others like it are available in many places now and gives us a chance to see classic works of music, dance and theater that we may not have been able to see otherwise. Phil watched the 7th game, but my friend, Charleen, and I enjoyed this production so much.

Phil's latest scan was cancer-free. Yay! Four months of freedom after 15 months of surgery,  chemo and radiation.

Enjoyed the Harlem Quartet, played here on Saturday. They are in Detroit for a few days, introducing their music to schools with music programs. They are currently in residence in London so we are lucky to have them here for a week. They play both jazz and classical and are joyous performers.

Having a friend like Mary, who has helped us through the last few years and is making a celebration dinner for us tonight. Everyone needs a friend like Mary. There are very few people who you know you can count on and she is our go-to friend.

Still reeling from the finale of THE DEUCE. Megan talks about her experience in working on the show on the terrific LARB right here.  

And how nice meeting Steve Oerkfitz for coffee. So nice to talk books and movies and other topics with someone I have known online for so long. Everyone I have ever met from my online life has been exactly as they seemed: smart, nice, interesting. 

And what about you? 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Friday, November 03, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 3, 2017

(From Kaye Barley in the archives)

The Pierre Chambrun series by Hugh Pentecost

Hugh Pentecost. I thought I had remembered the
PERFECT forgotten books. Perfect! Couldn’t wait to squeal about an author who I haven’t heard mentioned in forever. You can imagine how my chin hit the floor as I read Lesa Holstine’s November 28th blogwhen the name Hugh Pentecost jumped off the page at me.

But, Lesa and I do tend to enjoy a lot of the same books, so perhaps not too surprising. Except this was a series which ended in 1988! How ironic is it for the two of us to want to re-read and remember these books at exactly the same time, and want to bring them to “Friday’s Forgotten Books?” It gives even more emphasis to the fact that they deserve to be remembered. Lesa did her usual excellent job inbringing these books to life and stirring some interest.

If you haven’t already read the Pierre Chambrun series, I too encourage you to try to find them and give them a try. I
think my love of and curiosity regarding all things having to do with hotels must stem from discovering Kay Thompson’s ELOISE at an early age. I find myself drawn to books which have hotels as a “character.” Especially a luxury hotel, which is a world unto itself. Upon discovering this series, I was in heaven. I continue re-reading the novels and short stories simply to lose myself in the Beaumont Hotel.

Hugh Pentecost was the pseudonym of Judson Philips (1903-1989). Philips was a founding member of the Mystery Writers of America and served as its third president, in addition to being Grand Master in 1973. Pentecost’s luxurious Beaumont Hotel is the leading character in 22 books. When asked if the Beaumont was based on the Plaza, the Ritz, or another luxury New York City hotel, Mr. Pentecost replied that although he knew these grandhotels well, none of them were as well known to him, nor as well loved, as his own Beaumont, which was as real to him as his own home.

While we don’t ever find Eloise scampering the halls of the Beaumont, there’s a host of interesting characters with their own stories and secrets to keep us entertained. At the start of the series, which was begun in 1962, we’re introduced to Pierre Chambrun who is the much admired, well loved, lord and master over the Beaumont. We’re also introduced to a cast of supporting characters – most of whom arestill employed by the hotel when the series ends in 1988. The
re are few character changes; but the changes are important to the series, and I think perhaps one of the reasons for its successful, long life. They include replacing Mr. Chambrun’s original insignificant secretary with the intriguing Ms. Ruysdale. The involvement between Chambrun and Ruysdale is developed slowly and intricately during the series until the very last line in the verylast book leaving no mistake as to the nature of their relationship.

Another important change is losing a likeable key character, Alison Barnwell, public relations manager. Alison marries and she and her husband move away from the city to open their own hotel. By replacing Alison with Mark Ha
skell, the series gains its “voice.” Its through Mark that the rest of the stories are told. The relationship between Mark and Pierre is very much like that between Nero Wolfe and Archie. A relationship which would not have been as wholly believable with a female character during this time period. One additional recurring character who remains a favorite is the elderly Mrs.Victoria Haven. Penthouse resident. One time stage star, and legendary beauty. A woman of great dignity, intelligence, mystery and humor. My favorite booksin the series are the ones which include Mrs. Haven.Into this close, closed and tight knit community fall the adventures of the richand famous, infamous, innocent or not so, scrupulous or unscrupulous, always intriguing visitors with mysteries begging to be solved.

Sergio Angelini, I AM MARY DUNNE, Brian Moore
Yvette Banek, FREE FALL, Robert Crais
Brian Busby, WIVES AND LOVERS, Michael Milner
Bill Crider, KISS ME, SATAN, Victor Gischler
Martin Edwards, THE GOLD STAR LINE, Meade and Eustace
Curt Evans, NO BONES ABOUT IT, Ruth Sawtell Wallis
Richard Horton, UNDER THE RED ROBE, Stanley J. Weyman
Jerry House, TWO FABLES, Roald Dahl
Nick Jones, PERIL FOR THE GUY, John Kennett
George Kelley, THE ART OF THE PULPS, Douglas Ellis
Margot Kinberg, ABOVE SUSPICION, Lynda La Plante  
Rob Kitchin, MAP OF A NATION, Rachel Hewitt
Evan Lewis, TAI-PAN, James Clavell 
Steve Lewis, CHAIN SAW, Jackson Gillis 
Todd Mason, Favorite Little Magazines
Neer, THE FILM OF FEAR, Frederic Arnold Kummer Jr.
J.F. Norris, TO CATCH A THIEF, Daphne Sanders
Matt Paust, More Maigrets, Georges Simenon 
James Reasoner, BELLS OF DOOM, Maxwell Grant
Gerard Saylor, WHORESON, Donald Goines
TomCat, THE WINDBLOW MYSTERY, Edward Gellibrand
TracyK, SMALLBONES DECEASED, Michael Gilbert 
Westlake Review, DIRTY MONEY, Richard Stark 
Zybahn, THE SUPER HUGOS, Issac Asimov

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Wednesday Night Music

First Wedneday Book Club: LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng

This was peculiar book for me. Although I read it very quickly, easily and with pleasure, it had many oddities. It wasn't until the book was half over, that its real topic emerged: the adoption of Asian babies by American couples. And the problems of surrogate mothers as well. And because the topic arises late, it leaves most of the characters lurching for their place. Characters I had begun to be interested in in the first half, barely surfaced in the second.

It is also a story of mothers and daughters. A major figure is identified mostly by her surname. Why?
And if the first half addresses privilege, the second half leaves this behind and hones in on other non-character based issues too often. It's as if, Ng becomes bored with her clever social satire and reaches for a deeper tone.

The plot mostly concerns the intersection of a self-satisfied Shaker Heights family with a single mother and her daughter. The single mother is an artist who begins to clean for the family. The daughter forms relationships with all of the family's kids. But as I said earlier, most of this goes out the window in the second half.

I kept thinking that if this book was reordered and told from the single mother's POV, it would have been a stronger story. But you can find lots of reviews who had no problem with the story. So maybe it's just me. Certainly it is a well-written, thoughtful book. Just a little short of memorable characters. Too many of them never come alive.

You can find more reviews at Barrie Summy's place.