Thursday, May 31, 2018

Le Chat

We are now subscribers to Film Struck, which gives us access to hundreds of films, foreign and classic Hollywood. This was the first film we watched. (Well, we watched PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK first but we had already seen that one)
Le Chat is based on a Georges Simenon novel and stars Jean Gabin and Simone Signoret. It is the story of a toxic marriage playing out in an apartment that has been condemned. We watch the machinery taking down everything around the unhappy couple's home and wonder if they can outrun it and themselves. A sad movie, but well, such is Simenon.

Such a choice on Film Struck. It costs about the same as HBO but there is no comparison in the choices of films.

Monday, May 28, 2018


We enjoyed listening to Kevin play his guitar at Freddy's on Saturday. The kids seem to have a fun time playing. It is mostly heavy metal sort of music but they usually do one or two from our sort of music.

Enjoying STEALING THE SHOW by Joy Press, about female-led shows (MURPHY BROWN, ROSEANNE, etc). This refers to the show-runner more than the star. Also reading THAT KIND OF MOTHER by Rumaan Alam. Maybe Philip Roth had trouble with creating real female characters, but Rumaan does not.
It got hot here. Skipped right over spring as usual. The flowering trees are coming to an end. May is the most gorgeous month here. No contest.
Admired more than liked THE RIDER. Too much about breaking in horses and rodeos for me.

What about you?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, May 25, 2018

(from the archives) le0pard13 is the internet moniker of a father of two, spouse to one, who blogs out of The City of the Angels. He owns a first edition copy of the book below and one day hopes to have the author autograph for him.

The Ninth Configuration, by William Peter Blatty (Harper & Row 1978)

Just say the name, William Peter Blatty. It does have its own sense of meter as it rolls off the tongue, now doesn't it? You'll most likely recognize it, too. Just the same, saying it three times in front of a mirror won’t cause anything bad to happen, either -- contrary to urban legend. If you love books and reading, whether you are a baby boomer or Generation X, Y, or even Z, odds-on you've heard of him. Such is the legacy of authoring a horror novel as famous as 1971's The Exorcist (which would go on to even greater notoriety when it was adapted to the screen in 1973's film of the novel). However, along with the popularity and fame for a book that became an all-encompassing event, it can be too much of good thing. 'Event' novels can take on a life of their own, and they can build to the point that all other work by the same author lies in its shadow. Obscured because they are not anything like that book. Such was the consequence for the next novel by author Blatty that it seemed to fall by the wayside when it was published in 1978. That forgotten, but wonderful, piece of elegant writing was, The Ninth Configuration.
What was released that year actually germinated from a hasty 1966 novel titled, Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane! From his author's note: "Its basic concept was surely the best I have ever created, but what was published was just as surely no more than the notes for a novel -- some sketches, unformed, unfinished, lacking even a plot." Luckily, for those of us who read the re-envisioned work in the late 70's (and those who would go on to discover and appreciate it decades later), it is an overlooked book worth remembering. Ironically, WPB has said more than once he considers it his unofficial sequel to The Exorcist. Although The Ninth Configuration shares a very loose connection (via an unnamed character) from that novel, the genre and plot line couldn't be more divergent. Plus, it works whether or not you've read the legendary blockbuster that preceded it.
The novel's story centers upon a select small group of military men secluded away with what are believed to be inexplicable mental disorders. Or, being highly intelligent men, they could be faking it--which could be the reason nothing has worked and why they continue their stay at a decaying Gothic mansion. Their treatment, and sanity, ultimately hinges upon one Marine Colonel Kane (a psychiatrist who may have his own issues) brought to the sheltered facility to seek the answers in the most unexpected of ways. Blatty crafts the story as a mystery to be solved, planting its seeds in the unusual interactions that take place. The author’s dialogue between the patients and staff are quite purpose-built, madcap, and unexpected. I cannot describe it any better than what a good friend wrote in a review of his, "Because the story is relatively brief, no words are wasted in an attempt to be lyrical or poetic. Yet somehow there are moments of utter poetry in the exchanges between doctor and patients, and in Kane's own introspective reasonings." While the material covered is meaty, it is one of the few novels that made be laugh out loud, and had my eyes welling by the time I finished it.
One could describe WPB as an author who writes eloquent, thought provoking fiction that draws in his readers with clever, humorous dialogue (keep in mind, he also wrote the screenplay for the comedy, A Shot In The Dark). Or put another way, he’s a humorous, clever writer who puts out eloquent novels that catch the readers off guard by being thought provoking. I'd say both are true. He just happened to author a chart topping novel of horror that eclipsed everything before, or since, in his bibliography. However, The Ninth Configuration remains perhaps a more intriguing read, and worth exploration by those who haven't experienced it. As well, for those of us who are film buffs, sprinkled throughout, the author references classic movie moments and dialogue within this novel. A few years after its publication, William Peter Blatty would pen and direct its film adaptation in 1980. Not surprisingly, it has developed a strong cult following, and many believe the story is more immersive on the screen (consider me in both groups). The 1978 novel is a svelte 135-page work, and next year TNC will be re-released by Centipede Press as a new edition. Purportedly, it will combine both novels and will include a long essay by film scholar Mark Kermode in a 292-page hardcover. So on this Friday, The Ninth Configuration is not forgotten (at least, by me anyways).

Yvette Banek, THE HENCHMEN OF ZENDA, K J Charles
Les Blatt, FIRE IN THE THATCH, E.C.R. Lorac 
Elgin Bleecker, THE MEN FROM THE BOYS, Ed Lacy 
Brian Busby, MY LADY GREENSLEEVES, Constance Beresford -Howe
Curt Evans, SWING, SWING TOGETHER, Peter Lovesey
Richard Horton,The Chauffeur and the Chaperon, by C. N. and A. M. Williamson 
Nick Jones, Larry Niven's A World Out of Time, Greg Bear's Anvil of Stars, Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, et al.

George Kelley, WAYWARD GIRL/THE WIDOW, Orrie Hitt
Margot Kinberg, A RISING MAN, Abir Mukerjee
Rob Kitchin, THE KEPT WOMAN, Karen Slaughter 
B.V.. Lawson, THIS ROUGH MAGIC, Mary Stewart
Evan Lewis,  BILL CRIDER'S Intro to The Body Looks Familiar / The Late Mrs.Five by Richard Wormser
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, CROOKED MAN, Tony Dunbar 
Todd Mason,  FFM: STREET & SMITH'S DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, September 1946, edited by Daisy Bacon; ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, September 1945, edited by Frederic Dannay; NEW WORLD WRITING 16: Tillie Olsen, Thomas Pynchon, Anne Sexton, Kingsley Amis, et alia...edited by Stewart Richardson and Corlies M. Smith 
Matt Paust, A TRAITOR'S PURSE, Margery Allingham 
James Reasoner, WAYWARD GIRL, Orrie Hitt 
Richard Robinson, WHAT I READ, Part 5 
Gerard Saylor, MONTANA HITCH, Richard Wheeler
Kerrie Smith, THE SANS PAREIL MYSTERY, Karen Charlton 
Kevin Tipple, A LITTLE DARLING, DEAD, Jack S. Scott 
TomCat, THE MISADVENTURES OF ELLERY QUEEN, ed. Josh Pachter and Dale Andrews
Tracy K, Patricia Wentworth

Monday, May 21, 2018


Megan came out for two days. It was nice to have her around although for too short a time. We saw a rather bad movie, she installed Roku for us so we could get Filmstruck on our TV, we celebrated Josh and Julie's 23rd anniversary, went out for three good restaurant meals and ate Arab food at home. We found a terrific new takeout place in a gas station. Am still hunting for a book to read.

Megan will shoot the pilot for DARE ME in August / Sept. Her new book GIVE ME YOUR HAND has been purchased by AMC and YOU WILL KNOW ME by Marti Noxon so lots of excitement for Megan.

Finished watching SAFE on Netflix and found it disappointing. Hate it when too much comes out at the end. Although I thought there was some nice moments and good acting.

Is there anything prettier than a redbud in bloom?

So what are you up to?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, May 18, 2018

 THE LAST GOOD KISS, James Crumley 

Crumley’s detective hero/antihero is C.W. Sughrue,is  a war veteran who handles low-level P.I. jobs like spying on wayward spouses for divorce cases or locating deadbeats for bill collectors. While tracking down a troublesome author named Trahearne for the man’s ex-wife, Sughrue takes on a second job locating a missing daughter.
Tracking down Betty Sue is the main plot point that drives the novel forward, but it’s Trahearne, that makes the novel fun to read. When the two men strike up an odd friendship and Sughrue’s hired to find Betty Sue, Trahearne cajoles Sughrue into letting him tag along.
Sughrue often takes a backseat to both Traherne and to the beer-swilling bulldog Fireball.
The real star of the book, however, is the prose, the setting, the atmosphere. Lots of fun.

Brian Busby, GANG OF FOUR
Martin Edwards, MYSTERY AT OLYMPIA, John Rhode
Richard Horton, The Stars are Ours!, by Andre Norton/Three Faces of Time, by Sam Merwin, Jr.
Jerry House, NOT THIS AUGUST, C.M. Kornbluth
George Kelley,  THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES: 1951 Edited By E. F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
Margot Kinberg, SILENT SCREAM, Angela Marson
Rob Kitchin, PARIS, TROUT, Pete Dexter
B.V.  Lawson, THE DEATH OF A CELEBRITY, Hulbert Footner
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, THE SPOOK HILLS MYSTERY, B.M. Bower 
Todd Mason,  FANTASTIC STORIES, August 1976, edited by Ted White; THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, August and September 1976, edited by Edward Ferman 
Matt Paust, A FAR, FAR BETTER THING, Jens Soering and Ted Sizemore
Richard Robinson, What I Read, Part 4
Gerard Saylor, SPECIAL FORCES BERLIN, James Stejskal
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THIEVES'S DOZEN, Donald E. Westlake
TomCat, DEAD MAN TWICE, Christopher Bush
TracyK, GOLDFINGER, Ian Fleming

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Deborah Kerr and Robert Donat play two naive people who marry without much in common. The war breaks out and both of them enlist. (She in the Waves). Their wartime service changes them into more independent people and also adults. When the war ends, both are convinced their marriage is over based on what they know about their partner.

Alexander Korda directed this in 1945. It is also called PERFECT STRANGERS. It was quite a decent little film and treated a serious subject in a respectful way. It is the kind of movie you might like if you stumble on it, but perhaps not the sort you would rent on Amazon.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mondays Are Murder

Things That Are Making Me Happy

RBG, the biopic of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, which was more like a fan letter than any sort of critical study, but so what. Maybe she deserves it when you go through her accomplishments. She is certainly a role model for many young women. And managed to have a loving marriage too.

Enjoying THE LAST GOOD KISS by James Crumley and MAD MEN CAROUSEL by Matt Zoller Seitz as I rewatch seven seasons of MAD MEN. Yes, it holds up very well. And it seems even more relevant today than three years ago.

Sorry the series ATLANTA is over for the year. Each episode was special, different, sad. Donald Glover is a genius.

Finished my story for the Lawrence Block antho. Hope he likes it. And thanks to Jeff for reading it for me.

Incessant rain makes for green grass. But it also makes for incessant rain.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, May 11, 2018

I am a big Larry Watson fan and LET HIM GO did not disappoint. It was a great followup to books like WHITE CROSSES and MONTANA: 1948.

After their adult son is killed in an accident, his widowed wife marries again and leaves the Blackledge's home to go with her new husband to Montana. She takes their grandson with her, of course, and therein lies the problem.

"With you or without you," Margaret Blackledge insists, and at these words George knows his only choice is to follow her.

George takes to the road with Margaret by his side, tracking down the Weboy clan quickly. When Margaret tries to convince Lorna to return home to North Dakota, bringing little Jimmy with her, the Blackledges find themselves mixed up with the entire Weboy clan, a horrific family determined not to give the boy up without a fight. It's more about possession than love with a family like this. 

This slim volume contains a heart-pounding story, unforgettable characters, terrific atmosphere and some of the most beautiful prose you will ever read. I liked it almost as much as MONTANA: 1948, making it still one of my favorite books. Oh, to write like Mr. Watson.  

Mark Baker, FATAL FISHES, Sandy Dengler
Yvette Banek, PLOT IT YOURSELF, Rex Stout
Brian Busby, S, PORTRAIT OF A SPY, Ian Adams
Martin Edwards, THE SALTMARSH MURDERS, Gladys Mitchell 
Curt Evans, CUT THROAT, Christopher Bush
Richard Horton, A VIRTUOUS WOMAN, Kaye Gibbons 
Jerry House, THE HOUSE ON THE MOUND, August Derleth
George Kelley,, THE HUMAN EDGE, Gordon R, Dickson
Margot Kinberg, SMITH's FORTY ACRES, Dwayne Alexander
B.V. Lawson, UNCLE ABNER, MASTER OF MYSTERIES, Melville Davisson Post
Evan Lewis, THE COWBOY HANDBOOK, Bruce Dillman
Steve Lewis, Barry Gardner, UNDUE INFLUENCE, Steve Martini

Todd Mason, Humor Magazines and Anthologies
Matt Paust, HIDE MY EYES, Marjorie Allingham 
James Reasoner, THE PYTHON PIT, George F. Worts 
Richard Robinson, WHAT I READ
Gerard Saylor, THE SECOND LIFE OF NICK MASON, Steve Hamilton 
Kevin Tipple, DYING VOICES, Bill Crider
TracyK, THE WHIPHAND, Rex Carver 
TomCat, THE INUGAMI CLAN, Seishi Yokomizo 
Westlake Review, Peter Rabe
Zybahn, Stephen King, The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Andy Grifffith SHow

Do you know Andy never received an Emmy although Don Knott was well rewarded? That is indicative of voters not understanding the real heart of the show. This is my favorite episode.
What is yours?

Monday, May 07, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Happy that my son stopped over for a surprise dinner the other night. And also happy he takes such pleasure in helping coach Kevin's team. I am sure he enjoys it as much if not more than Kevin. We got to a game this week and was amazed at how well these kids play.

It was a week of cancelled appointments due to power outages, which makes me tense. But hopefully this week will take care of some of them.

I think I have a satisfactory conclusion to the story I have been working on. It's the longest short story I have written in years at almost 7000 words. I managed to find a small crime of sorts to anchor it but some stories just don't lend themselves to a major crime.

It is hard to explain the writing process if you don't write. But somehow I ended up writing a story about a minister and his wife. It just happens sometimes. These characters get into your head and you have to follow their path.

Enjoyed my Thursday ladies. We mostly talk about politics and health issues. Or where the best place to buy various items. Nothing profound but very therapeutic. We only talk for an hour.

Haven't been able to land on a good book lately. The Rendell one spoiled me for the next four I have tried. And I do not like this trend of opening a book with the introduction of a dozen characters coming to a house for a holiday or some other purpose. I like my characters introduced in small measures.

We saw TULLY, which was a puzzlement to me. And the sound quality was either bad or I am growing more deaf. Also more and more movies seem to be very dark. Literally. Maybe I am also going blind. But we saw it with friends so enjoyed the camaraderie. Nice to have friends that enjoy so many of the same things: books, movies, baseball, politics, TV, restaurants.

What about you?

Friday, May 04, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, May 4, 2018


This was the first Sam McCain book I read and what a pleasure it was. All of Ed Gorman's novels are a treat to read. You enter a world that is mostly filled with benevolent, well-drawn non-stereotypical characters.
And then Ed throws in the monkey wrenches that set that peaceful Iowa world on its ear. There is murder and mayhem but you are never offended. We have a gentleman here.
And then he sets things right in a humane and compelling way.

Especially fun for me were the sixties touchstones-and I really admired the way he caught it on the cusp of a new era-and captured it without overplaying its markers. Sam McCain feels young, vibrant and on the edge of adulthood himself.

What I liked most about Ed's books is his obvious admiration and enjoyment of women. This is unusual in the books I read. His women are rarely shrews or nags or harpies. All of them seem like a romance or an adventure is just within their grasp--young and old.

My very favorite Gorman book is SLEEPING DOGS, but this is right up there. They all are.

Mark Baker, A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT, Michael Connelly
Yvette Banek, CARDS ON THE TABLE, Agatha Christie
CrossExaminingCrime, MURDER ISN'T EASY, Richard Hull
Martin Edwards, PRINTER'S DEVIL, Clemence Dana and Helen Simpson
Bev Hankins, TERROR IN TOWN  Edward Ronns
Richard Horton, BORN LEADER, J.T. McIntosh
George Kelley, The Dark Angel: The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin, Volume Three By Seabury Quinn
Margot Kinberg, FINDING NOUF, Zoe Ferraris
Steve Lewis, COLD CLEWS, Erle Stanley Gardner
Todd Mason, SCRIBNERS MAGAZINE, Winter 89
John F. Norris, ALIAS BASIL WILLING, Helen McCloy
Matt Paust, THIRTY-NINE STEPS, John Buchan
James Reasoner, HELL IN PARADISE VALLEY, Barry Cord
Richard Robinson, What I Read, Part 2
Gerard Saylor, MURDER NEVER KNOWS, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Kevin Tipple, EMPTY EVER AFTER, Reed Farrel Coleman
TomCat, MR. MONK IS MISERABLE, Lee Goldbert

Thursday, May 03, 2018

First Wednesday (on Thursday) Book Club: THE CHIMNEY SWEEPER's BOY, Ruth Rendell

Barbara Vine in this case.

Gerald Candless is a famous British writer who dies suddenly much to the sorrow of his daughters and puzzlement of his wife. Their marriage has always been odd to say the least. She has functioned more as a typist and sometimes muse than a wife. However the girls adore him and the oldest decides to write a biography about him.

This proves to be a difficult task as there are many blind alleys in his life. Is he even Gerald Candless?

And the reader is left with mysteries of her own at the book's end. Why did a man so mistreated by society mistreat his wife. Why did he undermine his daughter's relationship with their mother. Yes, we feel sorry for Gerald, but we also loathe many things about him.

This is a complex, complicated book, which I could not put down. Rendell does a wonderful job of showing what life was like in various time periods. Not one character is a cliche. Truly a terrific book. And she integrates his writing wonderfully into both his life and that of his wife's.

More reviews on Thursday at Barrie Summy's place. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2018


A very strange little film that was too violent for our tastes. A hitman that uses a hammer as a weapon? Phoenix does a decent job of making this guy somewhat sympathetic. He has been the victim of violence as a child and violence as a soldier. And he is tender toward his mother and toward a young girl he rescues. There are some amazing scenes but all in all, it was just too bleak for the bleak world we live in. Phoenix does himself no favors by the scripts he chooses to make. And the mumbling does get old.