Monday, June 17, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Went to hear the first night of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Series where the Emerson String Quartet played three of Beethoven's string quartets. It was sublime. The festival goes on for two weeks and takes places in venues all over metro Detroit, many of them astoundingly gorgeous churches and synagogues. A few are in Windsor, Ontario and in Ann Arbor so it is truly a regional delight. I last heard the Emerson String Quartet perhaps thirty years ago and they have only gotten more sublime.

Watched FLEABAG again and I have to say the second season may be the best 180 minutes I have spent this year watching a performance. Heartbreaking, amusing, true.

Started a series called THE SOCIETY and it looks like the Christian right may have infiltrated Netflix. Not sure after only twenty minutes but the signs were there. 

Reading Kate Mulgrew's memoir. She is one smart cookie. For those who are unfamiliar with the name she was the sole female commander on a STAR TREK series, plays RED on OITNB and was Mary Ryan on Ryan's Hope in the seventies. Her writing is superb if a bit straining to be superb.

Hope you all had a happy father's day, fathers or not.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
Give Me Your Hand
Release date: Jul 02, 2019
A life-changing secret destroys an unlikely friendship in this "magnetic" (Meg Wolitzer) psychological thriller from the Edgar Award
Format: Print book
Giveaway ends in: 13 days and 17:06:39
Availability: 50 copies available, 4782 people requesting
Giveaway dates: Jun 15 - Jun 29, 2019
Countries available: U.S. 

Available on good reads

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Landscape with Fragmented Figures, Jeff Vande Zande (Bottom Dog Press, 2008)

It is hard to imagine this book taking place in a locale other than Michigan. If soldiers returning from war can be said to suffering post-traumatic stress disorders, many people in Michigan suffer similarly. Too many years of economic downturn takes a toll. An urban scholar doing a study of cities that have badly floundered, failed to find anyone with much optimism about the future of Detroit. (But now this has changed). This book captures that pessimism and angst.

Ray Casper is an artist, teaching at a small college in Bay City, Michigan. He's done some good work, is known as an inspirational teacher, has a nice relationship with his girlfriend, Diane. Suddenly, things begin to go awry. Diane, also an artist, leaves him. He loses his will to paint and desire to teach. He is unable to find solace with colleagues or friends. He is adrift even before his father dies, leaving many unresolved issues. His brother, a ne-er do well, Ray has never come to terms with, comes to live with him. Things continue their downward spiral as Ray comes to resemble his brother, Sammy, more and more.

This was a difficult book to read and yet I never put it down. Michigan is no longer hospitable to a diverse group of people: the blue-collar, Sammy; the artist, Ray; the student, Billy, who finds little support for finding a way to make a living or getting an education. The writing is fluid, the story poignant, but the book's most important strength is its clear-sighted and unabashed presentation of truth. That truth also examines the nature of art and the artist.

There are no heroes in this book. Just real people trying to find some joy in life, trying to find a reason to go on.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Sandra Seamans Day

And so it began:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Well, I'm Here

Okay, so I've finally surrendered to the world of blogs. Welcome to my little corner of the world, pull up a chair, get comfortable, and let's see if we can find something to talk about. 

And Sandra Seamans indeed found a lot of things to talk about. I doubt there was ever a blog that celebrated short story writing as well and a fully as MY LITTLE CORNER. Nor one that served a community as thoroughly and as selflessly as hers. She found her niche surprisingly quickly and although she claimed she mostly started a blog so she could participate in flash fiction challenges (remember those) it required hours of work for Sandra to pull up the information she did so willingly.
And it was also clear that she read many blogs herself and there were a lot of them back in 2008. 

If you go through the ten plus years of entries, you will see names come and go, zines come and go, contests come and go. And nobody was a bigger champion of other people's success than Sandra. Her "little Snoopy Dance" was always joyous. If someone wanted to a history of the online crime short story community over the last twenty years, her blog would be the place to start. A place to collect every contest, every call for submissions, the writers, the ups and downs of the business, and on and on.

In 2015, in the course of a week, Sandra lost her husband and mother and a lot of the joy went out of her. Although she came back to blogging, it was not about writing short stories so much as continuing her service to her fellow short story writers. How brave.

I only ever knew Sandra online but somehow it seemed like I knew her pretty well. She was candid on her blog. And we shared a year of reading short stories. Brian Lindenmuth suggested the challenge and initially there were quite a few participants, but by the end it was mostly Sandra, Brian and me.
Reading a short story every day doesn't seem like an onerous task but the mere chore of finding 365 stories you are willing to read was harder than we thought. Anyway, through her blog and through flash fiction challenges and through this assignment, I felt like I knew Sandra well.

Here are a few words from short story great, Art Taylor.

"In my writing courses at George Mason University and in any workshop I led elsewhere, I regularly devoted a section of my PowerPoint to resources for writers trying to market their short fiction. At the top of the first slide was My Little Corner, and I felt like I could never say enough about Sandra’s expertise on short story markets, her dedication to staying on top of market news, and her advocacy always on behalf of the authors, finding opportunities for us and warning us about venues to avoid. I never met Sandra in person, sadly, but she and I chatted sometimes, mostly in the comments section of My Little Corner. When she included something about me in her posts, she called me a “friend of the blog,” but in our own way in this age of online interactions, I felt like she and I were actual friends. I’m sorry I missed the chance to let her know how very much I appreciated her and her work." 

An interview from 2012 on DO SOME DAMAGE.
Some words from Paul Brazill 
Sandra on PULP CURRY 
Here are some words from Kate Laity
And from Sandra Ruttan 

Sandra's collection of stories COLD RIFTS is out of print, but it won't take much effort to find many of her stories online. A particular favorite of mine was one she wrote for a flash fiction challenge I ran a long time ago. The challenge was to write a story that uses the song  "SWEET DREAMS." Hers was clever and beautifully rendered. Google "Repeat Offenders" if you care to sample it. It's just a thousand words after all. Just a short story. But for Sandra and a few others, a good short story is the gold standard of writing.

Goodbye, Sandra. We will miss you.

Friday, June 07, 2019

FFB-CITY OF BONES, Michael Connelly

Is there anyone whose words on the page capture police life better than Connelly? He is as patient a writer as Bosch is a cop. CITY OF BONES opens with a dog finding bones of a child who probably died about 1980. The kid's death was the last of a long line of abuses he suffered.
Bosch patiently follows leads and false leads to a good conclusion. Lots of memorable scenes and characters but Bosch is the one our eyes follow. Highly recommend.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

First Wednesday Book Reviews

Jonathan Santlofer' THE WIDOWER'S NOTEBOOK tells the true story of the unexpected and somewhat mysterious death of his wife, Joy, after minor knee surgery. The day after her procedure, Jonathan is in the next room at home when he hears her cry out. He calls EMS immediately, but they are unable to save her. The book tells the story of their very happy marriage, and the months and then years following her death.

This book was very pertinent to me, of course. My situation shared some characteristics of his (long happy marriage) but was different in other aspects (suddenness v. long illness).  It was beautifully written and illustrated by Mr. Santlofer, who is a writer and an artist. He was able to capture his wife with words and a pen equally well. I found this book a particular comfort, but I think his journey is one many people would find worth reading about.

For other book reviews, check out Barrie Summy's blog.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019


Agnes Varda directed this film in 1977 and it's  the most comprehensive look at being a young woman in that era I've seen. It confronts both the problems of unwanted pregnancy and the problems of wanted ones. Two young women meet in 1962, both wrestling with their womanhood. This was such a specific look at the Roe v Wade era-but in France, with short trips to Amsterdam and Iran. It was very good in most respects although long interludes of singing nearly derailed it for me. Men are given pretty short shrift in this film-a real ground-breaker in that regard. At its heart, it's about female friendship, a rare thing in a film that was not a comedy.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

I am determined to find some things that are making me happy. And one is the lovely hydrangea, George Kelly's gift allowed me to put in my garden.There are actually two of them because they were having a sale. This was Phil's favorite shrub and we always had a bunch of them around before this house. Thanks, George.
The HULU show, CATCH 22, is making me happy. And rewatching DEADWOOD before I see the movie. Also the second season of FLEABAG. It starts strong and just keeps building. Liked the documentary THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM at the theater.

As I am knee-deep still in financial stuff and shredding my past, I am going to leave it at this.

What about you?

P.S. We are going to celebrate Sandra Seamans online next Monday. If you knew her or have anything to say about her, let me know.

Friday, May 31, 2019


Mitch Bartoy was in the first writing workshop I took at Wayne State. He was head and shoulders above all of the other students in terms of his progress, talent, drive. And sure enough in 2005 Minotaur published his book. It was the story of a cop in Detroit in 1943. Of course, it's about race, class and corruption. It captured Detroit well, and also its wealthiest suburb, Grosse Pointe. A ton of research went into it.

Mitch had spent years on this first novel, working as a postal employee to support his family. His contract was for two books and things began to go wrong for Mitch pretty quickly. His kids got sick, his agent left him, his publisher wasn't happy with his progress on the second novel. It eventually came out and died a quick death. He needed the time he had taken with his first book and he had none of it.

As far as I know, his career ended there. Maybe he is writing under another name and is wildly successful. I hope so.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

R.I.P. Sandra Seamans-MY LITTLE CORNER

Sandra Seamans served the writing community selflessly by posting contests and calls for stories on her blog, MY LITTLE CORNER. She wrote wonderful stories herself until the dual deaths in 2015 of her husband and mother. She never bounced back from her grief. I am sure she died before her time due to that blow. A collection of her stories was published as an ebook by SNUBNOSE PRESS but when the press closed, her ebook disappeared. Some are lucky enough to have it on their e-reader.

Friday, May 24, 2019


(from the archives)
I am a big Larry Watson fan and LET HIM GO did not disappoint. It is 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.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

This is the hardest chore yet. The clothes.
I could ask someone else to do it-to fold them and bag them up. But clothes were very important to him and so now they are important to me. Folding each piece carefully as if he will be judged by their presentation at a donation center.
He had beautiful shirts. None were just a dull oxford blue. They were peacock colors, dozens of them Linen, a special favorite. Hell to iron though.
The same with the sweaters, Cashmere. Fitted.
He was not an extravagant man in any way, but he loved looking nice. A friend referred to him as dapper. That's about as close to it as I can get. I have heard stories about widows holding onto things years later. It always seemed crazy until now.

Friday, May 03, 2019


Sometimes belonging to a book group makes you read books you would never have come across on your own. This is one of them.

The story takes place in the years of the Second World War in the Mississippi Delta. It's told in multiple voices, which gives us insight into a number of characters, all of them wrestling with the lot fate has dealt them.

Two returning soldiers both struggle with what the war has done to them--one white, one black. The black soldier has actually been treated better as a soldier in Europe than he will ever be in the South of the 1940s.

The black soldier's family, sharecroppers, wrestle with the indignities forced on them in that era (leaving stores by back doors, taking what's left over of virtually everything).

The wife of the land owner (and they are not rich either) is college-educated but must live in a shack when her husband loses their potential house to a sharper bidder. Their marriage is not an easy one.

All of these characters have noble moments and lesser ones. This is a sad book but one that will stay with you. Netflix made a good movie of it too.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

As you can imagine-not too much

And yet, Phil's memorial service was simply beautiful. I asked about eighteen of our friends, family, and Phil's students to remember him through reading from his own work, through poetry he loved, through reminiscences of their years with him, through music. It turned out wonderfully. About 150 crammed into the place. People came from St. Louis, DC, NY, Flagstaff, Ohio, etc. People postponed trips to be there and if one word resonated throughout the service, it was kind. His students, and there were many of them, all concurred on his kindness to them

Some very good friends, hosted a party afterward. The Abbott family felt bathed in the affection every one expressed.

I'll be back. Keep the lights on.

Friday, April 26, 2019

C'est Fin

Philip Reading Abbott was born on October 18, 1944 in New Hope, PA. His father, William Harvey Abbott was in the Merchant Marine  and overseas. Bill Abbott would return and become a shop owner, taking over a business, which had been previously run by his father-in-law, Joseph Reading.  Phil's mother, Beryl, helped run the business.  In 1949, a second son, Billy, was born.
Phil earned a bachelor's degree from American University in D.C. in 1966 and Master's and Ph.D degrees at Rutgers University in 1971. He began teaching at Wayne in 1970 at the age of 25. During his years at WSU, Phil published 14 books, more than 40 articles and countless book reviews.  I will cede a recitation of his academic career to his colleagues.
Phil and I met in the summer of 1965. I was seventeen, he was twenty. We married in 1967 and moved to New Brunswick. In the years since, there has never been a day that Phil didn't make brighter. He was my biggest supporter, my biggest champion.  When I finally found I enjoyed writing, he read early (and later) drafts of every story I wrote and always claimed they were perfect and didn't need a word changed. We always has so much to say to each other, so much to enjoy together. He was the one I most wanted to tell something to, and I know he felt the same way.
His childhood was a hard one and the lesson he took from it was to be the best husband and father he could. I'm sure his colleagues believe he devoted his entire life to scholarship, and indeed he was a very productive scholar, and a devoted teacher. He understood Wayne students were mostly first- generation college kids. Phil was the first in his family to finish high school. His parents did not imbue him with confidence and ambition, and he felt many of his students were also very much on their own too. Every class he taught got his full attention. Every exam he graded did too. He felt it was his duty to talk in class about books, movies, and other cultural events that his students might not hear about otherwise.  He didn't use the classroom to proselytize.  Hopefully educated students would make good decisions about politics through the historical lessons he spoke and wrote about.
But Phil's greatest devotion was always to his family. He was available to us whenever we needed him. And it was all the time. President of the PTO at Grosse Pointe North High school, managing and then coaching baseball teams, taking Megan to art classes at CCS on Saturdays, being the room parent that went to Toronto twice with fifth grade classes on buses. He was very glad his kids were never embarrassed about having him around at school and at other functions. He was so proud of his two kids, both of whom strived to succeed in school, in their professions, as moral people, in life. And having a grandson, we were able to spend a lot of time with for his first ten years was the ultimate pleasure.  And both of his children's achievements were a great source of pride.  
I am sure the time ahead of me will be as difficult as these last years have been. But I so many good memories to sustain me. How lucky I was to have such a long time with such a good and generous man. I want to thank the many people who have helped us shoulder the load of these last years. I am sure it would have been immeasurably worse without the help of family and friends.  As I was lucky in a husband, and lucky with my family, I am lucky with my friends.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

SHORT STACK, Reed Farrel Coleman

This is a collection of stories and poems by Reed Farrel Coleman. The terrific cover is by his son, Dylan. Debuting today, it can be purchased at the usual places. Some mighty fine reading if the stories of his I have read in the past are any indication.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

RIP my beloved husband

Died today at 4:00. He reached for my hand, I gave it to him, he died.

Monday, April 22, 2019


On a temporary hiatus. Love to all.

Monday, April 15, 2019


I don't have much this week. I have barely been out of the house. Phil is sleeping most of the time now although he is in no pain. I hired a new hospice, which seems much better.
I am watching HORACE AND PETE on Hulu, which troubles me a bit because of Louis C..K but boy, there is some great acting: Laurie Metcalf and Alan Alda, in particular. Love BETTER THINGS with Pamela Adlon.
Lots of rain here. There better be May flowers.
Reading TRUST EXERCISE by Susan Choi.
Sticking with THE OA but not sure why.
What about you?

Friday, April 12, 2019


Books I read in 1987.

'Be True to Your School' was written from a  diary Bob Greene kept during his junior year in high school. In it's richness is found it's timeless joy. This is a great snapshot of the awkward, humble, fumbling, funny and adventurous transition from boy to young adult.

Whether you're a man or woman though, Baby Boomer or not, if you love friendships, discovery of the opposite sex, popular music as a soundtrack to life, and fun, fun, fun, you will love this book.

The single most universal reaction from readers of this book, if not spoken, then felt, has to be the frustrating wish that Mr. Greene had continued making entries in his diary past his junior year. You'll love the characters, the small town and the adventures that surely must await.

We want more!!

A wonderful and poignant prologue, of sorts, by Mr. Greene is the also true, "And You Know You Should be Glad".
 P.S This was probably the last joyful year of the sixties before the war and its associated events and traumas tore us apart.  Much of this review was taken from amazon commenters. I wish I could read it again. My only note on the page in my diary was "Fun.!"

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Forgotten Movies: OFFICE SPACE

For a very long time I have heard people remark on how much they like this movie. Having seen it, I can't understand why. It's a pleasant enough two hours, but not half as funny as I expected and really, so tame. Ron Livingstone plays a guy who works in a cubicle for a soulless company. He is unable to voice even a mild complaint about his treatment. When he is encouraged to seek hypnosis to make him more aggressive, he is left in limbo as a guy who just does what he wants. I expected what he wants to be much funnier or at least funny. But it is also too tame. I wish someone would tell me why they liked this movie because I sure missed it. Jennifer Aniston is unmemorable as his girlfriend. She has forged a career with such bland parts. And I don't get that either.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

THings That Are Making Me Happy

Kevin got a dog! His name is Walter and he is 1/1/2 and part Corgi and part something else. This has been a long time coming.

Liked THE MUSTANG a lot. Bruce Dern stole the movie. Along with the gorgeous skies and mustangs.

Started watching THE OA. Not sure if I like it or not. Liked SHRILL (Hulu).

Thanks to the friends who  helped me out this week. None read my blog so I won't bother naming them. But boy, what would I do without the occasional lunch out, breakfast out, shopping trip, etc?
You can never have enough friends. I can testify to that. Special thanks to Karen who took Phil and me to see THE MUSTANG. A long drive for her, but boy there was nothing else to see.

Lots of nice walks. Wish Phil was with me but it's been a long time since that happened. Sort of horrible getting used to bad things.


Friday, April 05, 2019

FFB, GO WITH ME, Castle Freeman

Go With Me tells the story of a young woman's quest for help in dealing with an extremely dangerous man almost entirely in dialog. And what dialog it is, managing to be utterly natural and wholly poetic at the same time. I don't think the vagaries and parlance of conversation have even been put down on paper more convincingly.

This lean book is funny, scary, touching, and unpredictable. It reminds me of both Daniel Woodrell and Cormac McCarthy. But in the end, it's Castle Freeman's totally unique voice and humanity that makes this such a fine book.

Isn't it terrific when you discover a new writer? What was the last book someone recommended to you that was as good as promised?

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

First Wednesday Book Review: MAISIE DOBBS, Jacqueline Winspear

I read this book when it was first published in 2003 and suggested it to my book group a few months ago when they wanted to read a mystery. This is a mystery with some heft to it in terms of setting, character, plot.

It opens with Miss Maisie Dobbs setting up shop in England in 1929. She's not exactly the typical PI, but instead specializes in helping people solve psychological issues, especially problems related to the war. She has been a nurse in France and seen many of the issues confronting people even years later. She has also experienced some herself.

Most of the book is devoted to her background, how she became a servant in a rich household, and how her intelligence and ambition won her the freedom to acquire an education. This is a delightful book, which manages to portray almost every character with sympathy. Highly recommended. A slew of books have followed the first. 

More reviews are at Barrie Summy's blog. 

Monday, April 01, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

We had a quick visit from Megan although she was either on the phone or writing scripts most of the time. They begin shooting in two weeks so she is even more harried than usual. Being a show-runner means there is no detail of any aspect of the show she is not involved with. They are using almost entirely female directors and writers. Since most of the characters are women, it makes sense. USA moved the show to January so it and BRIARPATCH could debut together.
Rereading MAISIE DOBBS for my book group. What a self-assured first novel that was. Although there is very little mystery in this first book.
Really liked the movie TRANSIT if it comes your way.
Started watching HANNA, which seems okay but maybe not terrific. Phil liked the three seasons of BILLIONS he watched.
Enjoyed THE HIGHWAYMEN. Costner and Harrelson make a good team. Maybe TRUE DETECTIVE 4. 
What about you?

Here's the story on Margot Kinberg. 

Friday, March 29, 2019


Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

It's difficult to remember, forty years on, New York in the seventies, The City was facing bankruptcy, the streets were dangerous, frequent strikes left unattended garbage for the rodents, buildings crumbled. It was dirty, smelly, falling apart. Paula Fox's novel Desperate Characters perfectly captures that time along with the similarly disintegrating marriage of Sophie and Otto Bentwood.

The story begins with an unexpected cat bite. "Because it's savage," Otto answers Sophie's puzzled, "why?" It was a cat she was trying to feed that bit her. This well-intentioned act, this McGuffin, sends the couple off on a weekend odyssey, where ominous events continue to haunt the childless couple. They find little solace in each other and there is no easy resolution at the end. The quiet desperation that suffuses their story is heart-breaking.

The writing is haunting, lucid, and succinct.

Fox has also written two books about her life (Borrowed Finery and The Coldest Winter), a few other novels (The Widow's Children) and many children's books. But nothing is finer than this one for me.

Monday, March 25, 2019


Enjoyed CARELESS LOVE by Peter Robinson.
Enjoyed YOU on Netflix
Enjoyed GLORIA BELL at the movies. Julianna Moore was amazing.
Looks like we will have tulips soon.
Enjoyed SHRILL on Hulu.
Reading DEVASTATION ON THE DELAWARE: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955 
Loved CATASTROPHE on Prime. 
What about you?

Friday, March 22, 2019


Books I read in 1987.

I am sure I read almost all of the 87th precinct books. I liked the way they featured various cops, much the way Tana French does now. Although Steve Carella usually shines center stage.

When a man who wealthy Marilyn Hollis is dating is poisoned, Detective Steve Carella and his crew from the 87th Precinct are assigned to the case. She informs the detectives that the victim is only one of the men she dates.

The detectives can’t find anyone who might have wished him harm. Then a second man in Marilyn Hollis’s life ends up dead, as does a third. The detectives zero in on Ms. Hollis and the people in her life, looking for the villain.

Her charms don't go unnoticed and Detective Hal Willis moves in with her, even though she’s a suspect in an ongoing investigation. Willis insists that Marilyn is an innocent victim  and couldn’t possibly be guilty. Steve Carella is not so sure.

As always an enjoyable read.I can still remember waiting for the next book in this series to appear. Also the case with John D. MacDonald. Those were the days.

Whose books do you wait eagerly for?

Monday, March 18, 2019


 Haven't seen a copy myself. Perhaps it is all an illusion.

Things That Are Making Me Happy

SHRILL and PEN15 on HULU. THE OTHER TWO on COMEDY CENTRAL. Really enjoyed third season of CRASHING and sorry HBO cancelled it. Stopped watching BILLIONS. Just couldn't take the characters. Best line was when Richard Thomas told the lead that the only pleasure he would ever get from money was in giving it away. I agree with that. Same with Ray Donavan. They moved the show to NY but the characters are still going down the same path. Did they think tall buildings would make it better?

Watching a lot of TV as we are pretty housebound. Although I am lucky to have friends rescue me. A couple of meals out with them. Went to a book talk. Do miss movies but there have been few good ones of late.

Like the Podcast HIT PARADE. 

Megan is coming out in two weeks for two days. Yay!

Reading Peter Robinson's CARELESS LOVE. Real trouble in concentrating, sleeping, living. I never realized how much I depended on getting out. I am not a homebody.

So what are you up to?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Hit Parade

Music lovers. This is a terrific podcast (out of Slate) that looks at one song at a time and the culture and the time that made them hits. Chris Molanphy is so knowledgeable. Radio might have failed us but podcasts rock.

Friday, March 15, 2019


Books I read in 1987

L.R. Wright wrote perhaps seven books about a duo detecting team in Canada. After the publication of The Suspect (1985), her first mystery novel and winner of the 1986 Edgar Award for Best Novel, she concentrated almost exclusively on the genre after several earlier literary novels.

Anyhow in SLEEP, a body of a woman is found in the forest just off a road in British Columbia. Her throat has been slashed, her ID unknown, no discernible motive. 

An RCMP sergeant, Karl Alberg, is assigned to the case (and solves it eventually along with the village librarian). A Hollywood actor, an old flame, a grouchy old farmer, his lonely talkative wife, and an artist figure in the mix. Well-constructed and plotted plus engaging.Her style is spare and elegant. 
But probably read THE SUSPECT first.This one is very good but more conventional.

Thursday, March 14, 2019


Dorene O'Brien was a member of a writing group I belonged to a decade ago.  Dorene, hands down, was the best and most thorough critic. She taught creative writing at a college and had honed her skills over the years. Whereas the rest of us might write two paragraphs of criticism, Dorene would write two pages. It was as if she digested it and spit it back decidedly improved.

Her writing was also exceptional. And none of us were surprised when Wayne State University offered to publish a collection of her stories. (VOICES OF THE LOST AND FOUND). We were also not surprised when she stacked up various awards like Lego blocks.

Her second collection of stories debuted last week. Dorene writes about-- to quote a line from her book "women with tar-stained teeth and men carted from the automotive plant." This is an unusual cast of characters among literary writers. Most choose to spend their time with the upper middle-class or with academic types. Her writing is elegant, precise, original. I would compare her to Bonnie Jo Campbell and Mary Gaitskill, Her stories are pitch dark although they are not crime stories.

The title story is my favorite. It is a pas de deux between a mortician and a fiction writer who specializes in novels where dying characters are miraculously spared death. However, the writer is  blocked due to the ill health of his beloved wife. He can no longer spare his characters death when he is unable to save his wife.

The mortician is both attracted to and disturbed by his writing. If death is the inevitable outcome of life, the writer should acknowledge it. So this is the dilemma Ms. O'Brien sets up and deals with handily.

Also enjoyable is a story about a writer who dreams of attracting Tom Hanks with a perfect script about zombies, or the story of a man who finds his ex is now writing romance novels, or the woman in a tearoom with tarot cards who susses out Detroit's fate. There is not a dull story in the bunch.

Most admired  in each of these stories is the quality of the writing. She is incapable of writing a boring sentence. Every character is fully developed, familiar, and yet unique.

If I was reviewing this book and the writer was unknown to me, I would probably praise it more. But because I have been reading Dorene's stories for a decade or more, I have come to expect just what this book gives us-exquisite writing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Happy Birthday, Mom

Who apparently had secrets she took to her grave. Never mind, I love you despite your secret life.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Monday Feeling

Really got a kick out of the Netflix series DATING AROUND. Any one of the episodes offers some salient detail that would make a good story. The gay couples are much more forthright about sex. Quite a difference.
Reading my friend, Dorene O'Brien's, collection of stories. She may not deal with outright crime but every story is as pitch dark as anything in noir. (WHAT IT MIGHT FEEL LIKE TO  HOPE).
Broke down and got SHOWTIME so we could watch BILLIONS and RAY DONAVAN. Also BRITBOX but not sure I will keep it. Have seen so much of their library.
Love telling Alexa to play whatever and have it usually be in the amazon library.
What about you?

Friday, March 08, 2019


Books I read in 1987

Inspector Wexford is knocked out of commission when a car bomb meant for his daughter (an environmental activist and actress) injures him. This leaves his underling, Mike Burden, in charge of the case. The case concerns the death of a woman in a shopping mall garage.
She turns out to have not been the nicest woman, nor is anyone else in this story. (Rendell clearly was a bit of a misogynist). 
Both Wexford, quickly back in the saddle, and Burden have their preferred murderer. There are lots of red herrings and excellent character development in this case. I guess Rendell's dark view of humanity coincides with mine.