Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tuesday is Dana King Day

Find out more about Dana King at danaking.blogspot.com. I will tempt you to go there by saying he is also a trained musician.

We are celebrating the release of his tenth book, Ten-Seven by Down and Out Books. You can find it in all the usual places.I have known Dana for a number of years but mostly online. I think he first came to my attention by writing a swell story for a flash fiction challenge. Once I crossed a street with him though. I think it was in Philly at Noircon.

Q-You have written something like ten books in the last six or seven years. How on earth do you manage it? What do you credit your prolificacy to?

A-The joke’s on you. A book typically takes me a year to a year-and-a-half to write. My perceived accelerated output comes from an excellent piece of advice I got from my first agent, the late and wonderful Pam Strickler: Don’t wait for the first book to sell before writing the second. Or third. Or fourth. It took me so long to get the first one published I’m still living off the backstock. Lucky for me I have enough in the pipeline to get me to retirement when I should be able to knock them out with more regularity.

Q-You have two series as well as a standalone. What traits distinguishes Penn River novels from Nick Forte books?

A-The most obvious is that the Forte stories are first-person narrator and the Penns River books have multiple close-third person POV. The Forte stories are as much about Forte and his issues as they are about the case, which is not unusual in PI fiction. In Penns River the main focal point is the town itself, and how the crimes described affect it and the police force. The writing for Penns River is crisper, what Charlie Stella once referred to as a “documentary” style, where Forte may go off to explore his own thoughts.

Q Similarly, do you know right away which series a new novel will be part of? Do you come up with an idea first or do you begin with one or the other series needing an addition? 

A- The idea comes first and I usually know which series it belongs to, though that’s not always the case. The third Penns River novel, Resurrection Mall, was originally a Forte story until about 35,000 words in. I wasn’t happy with where things were going and every page was a struggle, so I set it aside and took a good hard look at everything about it. The problem was I had the story in the wrong series. All I saved was the title, the name of the televangelist (Christian Love), and the slogan he used for his converted mall (“Not razed, but raised”) and the Penns River version wrote itself, relatively speaking.

Q Does one series or the other come more easily?

A- Penns River seems to come more easily lately. I think it’s because I keep up with the local news in the three small towns on which it is based. It’s also a lot easier to find cop memoirs and books on techniques than it is for private investigators, so I can take real cases in different directions. The ensemble cast helps a lot, as there are angles I can explore by making one character or another more important. I can’t do that with Forte, as he’s the person telling the story. That said, I have an idea for a kickass Forte story in the back of my mind.

Q Can you give us the elevator pitch for this latest one? 

A- A random act of violence leads the police through multiple suspects while they try to keep their heads above water with all the other everyday things small town cops have to deal with.

Q If writers write in a tradition, whose novels does your work most reflect? Or perhaps more easily, whose writing do you most admire?

A- This list changes over time. I wrote the first four Forte books first because of the influence of Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker. Now I’d have to say I’m most influenced by Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, and Joseph Wambaugh. Those are the Big Three I go back to when I need a prod—them and Dashiell Hammett, with a little George V. Higgins thrown in for dialog—and reading them is always like taking a class.

Q  What is hardest for you as a writer- the idea for a story, creating characters, editing, coming up with a memorable ending, not letting social media distract me, promoting my work. 

A- No question, it’s promotion. Like most writers I’m an introvert. I like some level of attention, but it goes against my nature to seek it out. Everything else is at least a little fun, in part because those are the parts I have some control over. Once I’m in a promotional situation—could be an interview, a signing, or on a panel—I’m fine, but having to approach people to get those opportunities is the hardest, and most uncomfortable, aspect of writing for me.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Glad we were able to get to Kevin's rock concert on Saturday. A long ride but worth it to see those kids rock their hearts out. He went straight from there to his hockey game, which they won 6-2. Where do they get the energy? And I mean his parents as much as him.

Although I did not like STAN AND OLLIE very much, I admired the acting  of Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly. They deserved a more dynamic script. Surely they must have had more routines than the movie showed. Or maybe not. It seemed like a very low budget movie because we didn't even get many location shots.

Glad we are having more sun than usual even though the high is below zero on Wednesday.

Enjoyed SEX EDUCATION on Netflix. The kids in it are sweet and most of the adults are too. Gillian Anderson has turned out to be a very versatile actress.

What about you?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Congrats to Megan

Abbott Moves to Putnam

After a 12-house auction, Megan Abbott signed a three-book North American rights deal with Putnam’s Sally Kim, moving from Little, Brown in the process. Though Putnam offered no details about the titles under the deal, it confirmed that the first is slated for 2021. Abbott, a celebrated crime fiction author, was represented by Dan Conaway at Writers House. Now a sought-after name in Hollywood, Abbott is a writer on the HBO drama The Deuce. She also, Putnam noted, has nearly all of her novels in “active development” for either TV or film, and is the co-creator of a USA Network series based on her novel Dare Me.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 25, 2019

(from the archives) Nigel Bird

Stuart Kaminsky: Murder On The Yellow Brick Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

At times, the humour and the theatrical nature of the plot and scenes are used to paper over any cracks and the result is a real gem. It’s not only Peters who we come to love. There are a number of other characters in his life who have been beautifully constructed.

There’s Sheldon Mink, lunatic dentist with whom Peters shares an office. Anyone visiting him for treatment should really be seeing a shrink.
Jeremy Butler is the man who owns the building where Mink and Peters hang out. He’s an ex-wrestler, new-father and ageing poet rolled into one package, as well as being someone that’s useful to have around when the going gets tough.
There’s his landlady, a deaf old bird who seems to have selective hearing and a desire to have her memoirs published.
And there’s his brother, a big wig in the police force. When it comes to sibling rivalry we’re talking Cain and Abel. Unlike Toby, Lieutenant Phil Pevsner hasn’t changed his name to mask his heritage. Phil also happens to have the temper of a Berserker and the strength of a team of oxen and he uses both pretty much every time they have a reunion.
These characters play key roles in this and the following books.

When I came to finish ‘Yellow Brick Road’ I really needed to get straight into another. And another after that. And how’s this for a title of a later book - Mildred Pierced; it takes a hell of a mind to come up with jewels like that on such a regular basis.
Light, intriguing and rooted in the early days of detective fiction, pick up this book and you’re sure to return to mine the rich vein that lays waiting for you.

Mark Baker, LOST LIGHT, Michael Connelly
Les Blatt, THE DARK GARDEN, E.R Punshon
Elgin Bleecker, STEVE COSTIGAN STORIES, Robert E. Howard
Martin Edwards, THE MIDDLE TEMPLE MURDER, J.S. Fletcher 
Aubrey Hamilton, GOOD NIGHT, SWEET PRINCE, Carole Berry
Richard Horton, BLINDSIGHT, Peter Watts
Jerry House, TWO-GUN SHOWDOWN, Murray Leinster 
George Kelley, THE GREAT SF STORIES #5, ed. Asimov and Greenberg
     CHOPRA, Vaseem Khan  
Rob Kitchin, DEAD TO ME, Cath Staincliffe 
B.V. Lawson, APPLEBY'S END, Michael Innes
Evan Lewis, POST OAKS AND SAND ROUGH, Robert E. Howard
Steve Lewis, THE EVIL STAR, John Spain 
J.F. Norris, THE DEATHS OF LORA KAREN, Roman McDougald
ONLY DETECT, HAG'S NOOK, John Dickson Carr 
James Reasoner, WALK OUT OF HELL, Brett Waring 
Richard Robinson, THE SPACE TUG, Murray Leinster
Gerard Saylor, SECRET HISTORY, Donna Tartt
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, SKYLAR, Gregory McDonald

Monday, January 21, 2019

Happy Anniversary

Pretty Maids all in a row. Those dresses must  have been freezing in January!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 18, 2019


I have been more or less waiting for this book to be old enough to use here. It was published in 2007 . It is my favorite book of one of my favorite writers. And we met O'Nan in California at a signing and he is as nice as you would expect from his books. Maybe that should not count for much but it does with me.

Set on the last day of business of a Connecticut Red Lobster, this  novel tells the story of Manny DeLeon, a conscientious restaurant manager that should be in high demand. Instead, corporate headquarters has notified Manny that his branch will close right before Christmas. On top of that, he'll be assigned to a nearby Olive Garden and demoted to assistant manager. He has also lost Jacquie, a waitress who has come to mean more to him than his girlfriend Deena, who is pregnant with his child. On this last night, a blizzard hits, customers stay at home as do employees and Manny has a tough time finding a Christmas gift for Deena. Lunch gives way to dinner with hardly anyone stopping to eat, but Manny refuses to close early or give up hope. This is perfection for me.

Elgin Bleecker, THREE HOURS PAST MIDNIGHT, Tony Knighton
Brian Busby, A LOVER MORE CONDOLING, Adrienne Clarkson
Crossexaminingcrime, WHY DIDN't THEY ASK EVANS, Agatha Christie
Martin Edwards, FELL MURDER, E.C. R. Lorac
Curt Evans, THE WEEKEND MYSTERY, Robert A Simon
Happiness Is a Warm Book (Aubrey Hamilton), THE DIVISION BELL MYSTERY, Ellen Wilkinson
Richard Horton, THE FLOWER BENEATH THE FOOT,  Ronald Firbank
Jerry House, FLUKE, James Herbert
George Kelley, TIME AND TIME AGAIN, Robert Silverberg
Margot Kinberg, PORTRAIT OF A MURDERER, Anne Meredith
Evan Lewis, BULLET FROM NOWHERE,  Robert Leslie Bellem
Todd Mason, THE COMPLETE STORIES OF THEODORE STURGEON, ed. Paul Williams and Noel Sturgeon
J.F.. Norris, DARKNESS OF SLUMBER, Rosemary Kutak
Only Detect, DO NOT DISTURB, Helan McCloy
Matt Paust, MAYHEM. J. Robert Janes
James Reasoner, THE TIME TRAP, Henry Kuttner
Richard Robinson, A KILLING IN QUAIL COUNTRY, Jameson Cole
Laurel Scholnick, HORRORS, ed Charles Grant
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, MISCHIEF IN MAGGODY, Joan Hess
TomCat, DEATH KNELL, Baynard Kendrick

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


I don't know if you can get the idea from these first two photos just how small my childhood kitchen was. Wanna talk about counters, the only work areas were these two porcelain draining surfaces on each side of the sink. Across the room was the fridge and at the end of the room was a table and chairs. I doubt the room was larger than six by ten. You can see all the cabinets in the picture with my Dad and you can see how little preparation space there is as Mom tries to make Thanksgiving dinner. Want a 18 pound turkey? Well, it won't fit in this oven.  Families cooked dinner every night in those days. And now that we go out to eat a lot more, we have enough counters and then some. Somehow ours
Back Alley

all get used most nights. Cleaning up that childhood kitchen was easy. Now it takes me at least 30 minutes.

My mother's dinners didn't require much preparation or cleanup. The only spices I remember were salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Potatoes got washed and thrown in the oven with the meat. Or boiled in  pan. The vegetables were frozen most of the year.  No sauces or gravies of any kind except at Thanksgiving.

Now our first house as the Abbotts had a kitchen no bigger than this one. The next two, much bigger. And when I look at remodels of those row houses in Philly, they have gone open concept to at least give the illusion of more space.  The less we cook, the bigger our kitchens get.

Do you remember your childhood kitchen? Was it different from your kitchen today.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Although it wasn't a bad week, I can't say there was much making me happy. Having lunch with an old friend and coffee with a newer one (Steve O.) were both nice occasions. I saw a so-so movie ON THE BASIS OF SEX-again biopics are so difficult to make artfully. Watching the ever graceful Armie Hammer flip crepes was delightful though. The streaming shows we are watching: CASE, & GET SHORTY are sort of depressing. Not just sort of. I am getting tired of characters who will pick up a gun without hesitation and in the next scene be humorous or lovable. I know this is Elmore Leonard's world but I find it inauthentic or troublesome at least.
With what is going on with the President and the climate, it is hard to find things that make me happy.
What about you?

My floor, which is in four areas.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 11, 2019

In what is clearly an homage to Tey's DAUGHTER OF TIME, Colin Dexter plants Inspector Morse in a hospital bed to solve THE WENCH IS DEAD. Inspector Morse comes across an account of a 19th century murder. Intrigued by the inaccuracies in the account, he decides to solve the murder from his hospital bed. With the help ofl Sergeant Lewis and a librarian visiting her ill father, Morse soon becomes engrossed in the case of a young woman, apparently murdered by boatmen during her canal journey from Oxford to London.
As has been noted by countless readers, Dexter never manages to avoid sexism in  his books. Women are there to entice, sleep with, and flatter Morse. Sometimes portrayed as the great romantic, he is closer to the great letch. But Dexter's plotting and prose almost make up for it. And it features a great ending.(I can't remember if his attitudes toward women seemed disturbing in 1975. Hmm.) Interesting to wonder if Dexter saw him as womanizer or shared his attitudes.

Les Blatt, THE GREEN ACE, Stuart Palmer
Elgin Bleecker, WORST ENEMIES, Dana King
Brian Busby, THE DUST FLOWER, Basil King
Crossexamingcrime, WHILE SHE SLEEPS, Ethel Lina White
Martin Edwards, CUL DE SAC, John Wainwright 
Aubrey Hamilton, THE DREADFUL HOLLOW, Nicholas Blake 
Richard Horton, ASCENDING, James Allen Gardner
Jerry House, THE FIFTH HARMONIC. F. Paul Wilson
George Kelley, SCIENCE FICTION OF THE THIRTIES, ed. Damon Knight
Margot Kinberg, THE ACCIDENT ON THE A 35, Graeme Macrae Burnet 
Rob Kitchin, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, Anthony Doerr  
B.V. Lawson, THE MAN WHO DIDN'T FLY, Margot Bennett
Evan Lewis, THE EYE OF THE WORLD, Robert Jordan
Steve Lewis, "Whispering Monk" Gordon E. Warenke
Todd Mason,  Midcentury Literary Ferment: some best-ofs from magazines and movements: TRIQUARTERLY, IF, SHORT STORY INTERNATIONAL, VENTURE SF
J.F. Norris, THE FROG WAS YELLOW, Francis Vivian
Only Detect, ONE MAN SHOW, Michael Innes
James Reasoner, MR. SIX-GUN, Brian Garfield
Richard Robinson, MR. CALDER AND MR, BEHRENS, Michael Gilbert
Kerrie Smith, LAST BREATH, Robert Bryndza
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THE MYSTERY OF THE INVISIBLE THIEF, Enid Blyton
TraceyK, TRUE DETECTIVE, Max Allan Collins

Monday, January 07, 2019


Happy to see all the new Congresspersons sworn in and know we have a chance now to right this ship which is so close to toppling over.

Happy to see Megan flying out to LA to begin writing her series. It absolutely boggles my brain that she has made this happen. It should air beginning in July on USA NETWORK. (Crossed fingers).  What a gas to see your kid's dream come true--because when she was a tiny tot, before she wanted to write novels, she wanted to make movies and this is pretty darn close.

Loved MY BRILLIANT FRIEND and am grieving its finale. Hope HBO intends to continue the tale of Elena Ferante.

VICE was better than I expected. Christian Bale was Dick Cheney and the horror of that man will haunt us for decades. I admired the performances and the way Adam McKay told a complex story in an unconventional way.

Happy that my son and his wife make such an effort to include me in Kevin's activities. Yesterday I got to see his hockey game. He is a terrific skater.  Phil got to his men's group yesterday, which he really enjoys and never expected he would want to get up on a Sunday morning to spend time with ten guys.

Have been sorting through thousands of photos in an attempt to divide them. I know I should scan them onto a cloud but that idea is even more frightening.

What about you?

Friday, January 04, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 4, 2019

Elmer Kelton, Texas Showdown (Ron Scheer from the archives)

This book is actually two short novels by Elmer Kelton, first published in the 1960s and reissued under one title by Forge in 2007. Pecos Crossing, originally titled Horsehead Crossing (1963), appeared under Kelton’s own name, while Shotgun, originally titled Shotgun Settlement (1969), was published under a house pseudonym, Alex Hawk.
First off, Elmer Kelton is one of my top-10 favorite western writers. He wrote with a strong sense of history and an informed awareness of the West Texas terrain, its flora and fauna, and its weather. I find it easy to believe in his characters. They are not just convenient types but possess an emotional depth that makes them three-dimensional.

I would say he achieves this by conceiving of them as ordinary people who get themselves into all-too-human predicaments that force them into making choices. And these in turn drive a plot that is both inevitable and often unpredictable. As in his novel Other Men’s Horses (reviewed here a while ago), his central characters are fundamentally decent people up against dangerously determined men ready to lie, thieve, and kill.
His women are strong-willed and resourceful. Romance plays a role in both novels in this volume, as a young man falls in love with a girl who complicates matters as he follows his heart, though at the risk of losing his life.
Often, a pivotal character is a lawman who has learned how to wield authority with a firm but easy hand and has earned the respect of others by exercising a strong sense of fair play, even when upholding the law puts him on the unpopular side of a dispute.
One other thing. While there is a kill-or-be-killed element in Kelton’s fictional West, and men carry and use firearms, there is not an assumption that the reader is a gun enthusiast who needs to know the make, model, and caliber of every weapon that shows up in the narrative. It’s probably just me, but this habit of western writers today immediately draws attention to itself--like a fetish. For this reader, it comes across as too much information and disturbs rather than reinforces the illusion of a credible scene.
Pecos Crossing.  The central characters in this exciting yarn are two young cowboys who stop a stage to collect unpaid wages from one of the passengers. In the resulting confusion, a woman is accidentally shot dead. Her husband, a retired Ranger, then tracks down the boys to take revenge for her death.
Fleeing westward, the two come upon a young woman and her father, who is dying of TB. One of the cowboys, Johnny Fristo, wants to help them. His partner, who is chiefly responsible for the trouble the two are in, disagrees. Fristo, with a stronger sense of decency, prevails, though they lose time and the Ranger eventually catches up with them at a crossing on the otherwise treacherous Pecos River.
Like Other Men’s Horses, the story unfolds as a series of adventures encountered while traveling across a rough and mostly unsettled frontier.
Shotgun. The characters in this novel are drawn from the more usual stock of recognizable types that appear in westerns: the big ranch owner, his sons, a problematic neighboring rancher, his daughter, and a cunningly vicious villain who wants both men’s ranches.
Blair Bishop is the cattleman who, over a lifetime, has acquired a vast acreage. At the novel’s start, his main problem is a long drought that is drying up the water supply for his herds and leaving them with little grass to feed on. There has been an invasion of the thirsty cattle of his neighbor, Clarence Cass, and they are being driven back where they came from.
Relations between the two ranchers are further complicated by the fact that Bishop’s son, Allan, and Cass’s daughter, Jessie, make no secret of having fallen in love and intend to run off together if Bishop doesn’t give them his blessing.
Enter the villain of the story, Macy Modock, with a ten-year grievance against Bishop, who once had him sent to the pen for some wrongdoing. Having served his time, Modock hires a gunman and a shady lawyer to put the squeeze on Bishop by claiming legal ownership of parts of his ranch. Strengthening his hand, Modock lures Cass into his scheme.
Elmer Kelton
In a long and suspenseful conclusion, Jessie is holed up in a barn, bravely exchanging shots with Modock, while Allan lies unconscious beside her. Like the young women in Pecos Crossing and Other Men’s Horses, she is a credit to her gender.

Elgin Bleecker, BURY ME DEEP, Harold Q. Masur
Crossexaminingcrime, THIRD TIME LUCKY, Anthony Gilbert
Martin Edwards, MURDER CAN BE FUN, Frederic Brown
Curt Evans, THE WEEKEND MYSTERY , Robert A Simon
Richard Horton, THE BOOMING OF ACRE HILL, John Kendrick Bangs
Jerry House, THE THING IN B 3, Talmage Powell
George Kelley, THE DIME DETECTIVES, Ron Goulart
Margot Kinberg, ACCUSED, Lisa Scottoline
B.V. Lawson, EMILY DICKINSON IS DEAD, Jane Langton
Evan Lewis, Forgotten Books of 2018
Steve Lewis, THE CASE OF COMPARTMENT 7, Sam McCarver
Only Detect, THE FRENCH POWDER MYSTERY, Ellery Queen
Matt Paust, DEADLY PETARD, Roderic Jeffries
James Reasoner, SHEBA, Orrie Hi
Richard Robinson, THE SANDS OF MARS, Arthur C. Clarke
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THE CROSSWORD MURDER, Nero Blanc
TomCat, THE RATTENBURY MYSTERY, John Russell Fearn
TracyK, CORRIDORS OF DEATH, Ruth Dudley Edwards

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Favorite Movies of 2018


Best docs


Two movies I know I should have liked more but I slept through parts of them


I went to THE FAVOURITE a second time and got more out of it.